Support Black Lives at MIT Updates
What we asked for?
Objective 1 of the petition asked for a public commitment to representation of Black students in the Institute-Wide Strategic Plan committee. It also asked for a public timeline and regular public reporting for accountability. Objective 2 asked for increased transparency and accountability for MITPD activities. It also asked for an external investigation of alternatives to policing at MIT. The full petition can be found with the link below.
What was the strategy after the petition release?
Our strategy was to establish support from top down and bottom up. We have met with President Reif, ICEO John Dozier, Vice Provost Tim Jamison, MITPD Chief DiFava, VP of Legal Counsel Mark DiVincenzo, reps from the MITPD Union, School Deans, Department heads, graduate student groups and faculty members, The Tech etc… 30+ meetings have taken place with these groups since June 15th. The purpose of these meetings were to discuss implementation of the petition demands, get advice on strategy or just broaden support for the petition.
What was accomplished?
The petition received nearly 5000 signatures with a surprising 150+ from faculty! In addition, 150 organizations across the institution signed on! The wide support of the petition has helped to get several wins on both of the objectives and on several requests discussed in meetings held after the petition release.
For Objective 1, in President Reif’s letter to the community on July 1st, MIT publicly committed to having BGSA/BSU representatives on the strategic plan committee. While a seemingly obvious thing to do, this was important because the ICEO office had not made efforts to connect with BGSA previously. They also agreed to pay students on the committee. This is very important because we as students deserve to be paid for our emotional labour. In addition, they agreed to establish public reporting mechanisms on implementation progress. A very exciting part of President Reif’s letter that came out of the negotiations was MIT’s commitment to immediately establishing $17 million in graduate fellowships for URMs and continuing to fundraise further.
For Objective 2, Chief DiFava and VP Legal Counsel Mark DiVincenzo have agreed to the five transparency and liability demands. Visit the link below for more details on how they will be addressed. As far as the external investigation, this piece is still in discussion. We are considering an internal MIT group that will include experts in alternative community safety models and BGSA/BSU-selected representatives from students, staff and faculty. This group will be endowed with decision-making power about the future of MITPD. The reason for shifting away from a purely external model would be to accelerate the timeline for implementing recommended changes.
BGSA will be working with the ICEO to identify reps for the Strategic Plan Committee.
Objective 1 also acknowledged the need for updated recommendations since the 2015 BGSA recommendations. BGSA has since been collaborating with Graduate Students for a Healthy MIT (G4HMIT) and the Graduate Student Council Committee on DEI (GSC DEI) to develop the set of well-researched demands to address harassment, discrimination and racism at MIT underlying the RISE campaign.
Why another campaign? In the meetings with administration over the last month, we’ve learned more details about the ICEO’s Strategic Plan and pathways for students to drive the direction of this plan. The Strategic Plan will have “Strategic Commitments” to advance DEI on campus. For each of these “Strategic Commitments”, the committee will then identify recommendations that will fulfill those commitments and develop a timeline for implementation. Thus, outside of physically being part of the Strategic Plan committee, the next major way to drive the direction of the Strategic Plan is to help the institution set “Strategic Commitments” and further ideate on recommendations that map back to those commitments. For this reason, we view this campaign, which is very thorough in its demands, as a logical next step from the June petition. In August, BGSA, G4HMIT and GSC DEI will be co-hosting a town hall to dialogue about the campaign demands.
In pushing Objective 2, we’ve realized that we need to further socialize the rationale behind defunding and reducing the scale of police on our campus. BGSA is working with the office of the ICEO to organize an institute-wide event on policing. We are also working on implementing the investigation.
How can you support?
Get Involved: Historically, BGSA has had an ad-hoc Political Action Committee (PAC) that can be activated as needed. Right now, it is NEEDED. Involvement in the PAC can be whatever time commitment works for your schedule. Examples of needed support include drafting summary documents, note-taking at meetings, writing OpEds, outreach to other student orgs, designing and distributing promotional materials and giving direct feedback on current and future advocacy. Fill out the form linked below to get involved.
Give us Feedback: We are not perfect people, we make mistakes, and we do not know the best interest of every single Black person at MIT. We welcome feedback on everything from the advocacy strategy, level of communication with the general body, demands or anything. There is an anonymous feedback form linked below. If you’d like to speak with us directly, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.