Chancellor’s Response to Protest Letter — Sept. 24, 2007

Thank you for your note regarding Star Simpson and the incident at Logan Airport. Let me first say that I regret how the matter is being characterized in the media. Many of the reports are unfair to Ms. Simpson and do not reflect the facts. We do not believe Ms. Simpson is a dangerous or malicious person or that she intended to cause harm. I appreciate how tough it is to read these stories.

That said, we do understand the sensitivity about security at airports. We expect that our students will appreciate that what might be acceptable in ordinary public spaces or on our campus would not be acceptable in an airport. We further expect that this appreciation would be reflected in appropriate judgment and restraint in settings like airports where there are clear rules. We all exercise this restraint and thoughtfulness about security standards every time we go to the airport, particularly in this era after the 9/11 attacks. We rely on others to respect the standards as well. Part of the media reaction to an MIT student in this situation is that those who are “wowed” by the great things associated with MIT every day cannot understand why our students do not understand and respect airport security standards that everyone who travels respects, despite considerable inconvenience, for the safety of the greater public.

MIT has a long tradition of encouraging its students to be creative and to explore paths that others might not. Good science and good scholarship requires this. We will continue that tradition. We are also required, however, to remind students that certain public standards have to be respected lest transgressions of them be judged as reckless.