Letters to MIT Community

Letter to the Community: The Report of the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity

Thursday, January 14, 2010

To advance the frontiers of knowledge and innovation, to take on the world’s great challenges, and to educate our remarkable students, MIT must attract and cultivate the finest talent. The history of the Institute and of the United States shows that brilliant minds can emerge from anywhere; we must ensure that for those women and men who have the ability and ambition to succeed at MIT, MIT is a place where they can thrive.

Today, Provost Reif and I share with you the report from the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity. It describes MIT’s progress on diversity, but it finds that progress to be uneven. Through the search and tenure processes and in their daily lives on campus, the experience of many of our faculty members from underrepresented minority groups is different from that of their majority peers. The report makes clear that to achieve a true culture of inclusion, we still have much work to do.

This work continues to grow in importance. A richly diverse America does not await us, it is upon us; it is our present and our future. We draw most of our faculty, students and staff from America, and we must make full use of the talent this country has to offer if we hope to continue to invent the future. We share this challenge with our peer institutions; only by working together with them can we effectively increase the pipeline of academic talent, the central resource in meeting our diversity and inclusion goals.

Creating a culture of inclusion is not an optional exercise; it is the indispensable precondition that enables us to capitalize on our diverse skills, perspectives and experiences, so that we can better advance the fundamental research and education mission of MIT. To maintain the Institute’s unrelenting standards of excellence, all members of our community must contribute at the apex of their abilities. A productively diverse community at MIT will make us better at what we do: broader and deeper as thinkers; more effective as collaborators; more creative as teachers; and more understanding as colleagues and friends.

The report outlines practical, systemic reforms, such as broadening search practices and providing new faculty with much better mentorship, but it also highlights the overarching need to foster a culture of inclusion. Ultimately, a community reaps the benefits of diversity only when it looks beyond the numbers alone and actively creates a culture where everyone feels valued and included – an environment in which everyone can do their very best work.

MIT will use this important report to strengthen our practices and to develop and implement innovative strategies so that we can achieve the kind of leadership on diversity and inclusion that we expect from ourselves in every other realm.


Susan Hockfield


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