“MIT students show worrying signs of intolerance, and MIT appears to be failing to teach them the value of academic freedom”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is getting a little concerned about MIT.
From the FIRE blog:
MIT’s innovation is unmatched, and to keep it that way, it must defend academic freedom.
In 2022, MIT ranked second in U.S. News and World Report’s Best National University Rankings. What’s more, for the 11th year in a row, MIT was named the top university in the world by the QS World University Rankings. And for good reason. MIT has 3,543 patents active in the U.S., 730 invention disclosures, and affiliations with 100 Nobel Prize laureates. Just last year, MIT’s eminent Lincoln Laboratory developed six R&D award-winning technologies, including a hurricane-tracking satellite, a quiet propeller design for small commercial drones, a collision-prevention system for drones flying in national airspace, a cybersecurity tool, and two radio frequency-reducing systems.
What makes MIT’s innovation possible? Academic freedom. The unparalleled success of MIT is a testament to what can happen when researchers are allowed to freely explore intellectually uncharted — or even forbidden — territory.
Yet there are signs of weakness in MIT’s commitment to academic freedom. The decision to rescind University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot’s invitation to deliver the annual John Carlson Lecture, hosted by MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, has raised concerns about the institutional climate that allowed such censorship to occur. Community members have formed the MIT Free Speech Alliance, which has received a $500,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation to advance its mission of free speech and expression, viewpoint diversity, and academic freedom at MIT. They are advocating for the adoption of stronger academic freedom protections, such as the Chicago Statement. (See our “Fast Facts” overview for more.)
While MIT is a private university, its mission and objectives describe an institution where students and faculty engage in unfettered intellectual exploration. Yet according to the largest survey ever conducted on students’ free speech attitudes, MIT students show worrying signs of intolerance, and MIT appears to be failing to teach them the value of academic freedom.
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