To President L. Rafael Reif and members of the MIT Corporation:
We can no longer trust MIT’s entrenched system of top-down, closed-door decision-making. Under this system, top administrators have repeatedly approved unethical funding from numerous sources, including child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, climate change denier David Koch, and the authoritarian Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is insufficient to merely replace a few individuals at the top. We need a fundamentally new system. In the spirit of innovation, here is a concrete proposal:
We demand the creation of a deliberative body composed of faculty, students, staff, and alumni—all democratically elected by the MIT community—with the binding power to veto any gifts and research contracts, to ban any donors and funding sources, and to determine policies and guidelines for ethical fundraising at MIT. The elected body's decisions should be final and its meetings open to anyone.
To be clear:
We demand a democratically elected body rather than an appointed one. Representatives should be chosen through a fair and open process that is independent of the Corporation, the President, and other administrators.
We demand a deliberative body with the binding power to make final decisions. This is not a merely consultative body, such as the usual “committee” or “working group,” for making recommendations or producing reports.
The elected body is intended to complement, rather than substitute, other bodies of review and oversight. The elected body's main task is to decide particularly controversial cases involving large amounts of money.
The elections must be regular and open to all faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Students must have at least 1/3 of the voting power in the election and at least 1/3 of the representation in the elected body.
Anyone should have access to information about all donors, funding sources, gifts, and research contracts at MIT—whether sponsored or non-sponsored, existing or proposed. This information must be transparent.
The meetings of the elected body should be open to anyone who wishes to observe the deliberations, express concerns, or make arguments. Anyone should be able to propose that the elected body consider a given gift, research contract, donor, or funding source.
This measure is necessary but not sufficient to address MIT's long history of unethical fundraising, institutional complicity with sexual violence, and structural inequities of gender, race, and class.
We are confident that as MIT faculty, students, staff, and alumni, we are capable of making decisions for ourselves.
This proposal, signed by a coalition of concerned students, staff, faculty, and alumni, was presented to President Reif on October 11, 2019.