MIT cuts ties with Walter Lewin after online harassment probe

Institute revokes emeritus title, removes online courses of popular physics professor who starred in viral videos

7182 walterlewin
Courtesy Of MIT News OfFice

MIT is cutting ties with retired professor Walter Lewin after determining that the physicist, whose lectures had made him a beloved teacher and minor Internet star, had sexually harassed at least one student online.

The woman was taking one of Lewin’s classes on edX, the online learning platform started by Harvard and MIT.

MIT said Monday that it had launched an investigation immediately after she filed a complaint in October.

MIT officials reviewed “detailed materials” provided by the complainant, who also presented “information about interactions between Lewin and other women online learners,” according to Monday’s announcement. The investigation also included interviews with the complainant and Lewin.

MIT has revoked his title as professor emeritus, Provost Martin A. Schmidt PhD ’88 said.

MIT is also removing Lewin’s lecture videos and other course materials from edX and MIT OpenCourseWare indefinitely, “in the interest of preventing any further inappropriate behavior.”

Schmidt said that MIT’s actions were “part of a process of a complete separation from Walter,” though he also said those actions were “probably the extent of it” given that Lewin had retired.

“Given Dr. Lewin’s long career on our campus and contributions as an educator, taking this step is painful,” Schmidt wrote to MIT’s faculty.

“However, based on my careful review of the findings of the investigation and my conversations with the Physics Department leadership, School Deans, and other faculty leaders, I believe that harassment occurred, that our response is appropriate, and that explaining this matter publicly is necessary.”

Schmidt declined to comment on whether MIT would also investigate Lewin’s past at MIT.

Lewin joined MIT in 1966 and became a full professor in 1974. In the decades that followed he collected award after award for his undergraduate teaching.

Through OpenCourseWare and YouTube, Lewin’s lectures and physics demonstrations have reached millions.

“Professor Lewin delivers his lectures with the panache of Julia Child bringing French cooking to amateurs and the zany theatricality of YouTube’s greatest hits,” The New York Times wrote in 2007. “With his wiry grayish-brown hair, his tortoiseshell glasses and his intensity, Professor Lewin is the iconic brilliant scientist … he is at once larger than life and totally accessible.”

Lewin went on to star in viral videos of him drawing dotted lines on blackboards and swinging on steel balls suspended from the ceiling.

And then in 2013, Lewin helped launch online versions of his classes on edX. Among those who enrolled: the woman who would lodge the sexual harassment complaint this past October.

By Monday evening, at least some of Lewin’s classes had been taken down from edX, MIT OpenCourseWare, and MIT OpenCourseWare’s Youtube channel.

MIT is keeping some of Lewin’s lecture videos available on until the end of the semester. “We realize that some of you may have been using some materials from the OCW versions of the course as you prepare for your exams,” physics department administrators wrote in an email to students in an introductory physics class.

“Students place tremendous trust in their teachers,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement. “Deserving that trust is among our most fundamental obligations. We must take the greatest care that everyone who comes to us for knowledge and instruction, whether in classrooms or online, can count on MIT as a safe and respectful place to learn.”

An email requesting comment, sent to an MIT address that Lewin has previously used in communications with The Tech, could not be delivered Monday.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This is the most idiotic response I can imagine from MIT. REMOVING the videos??? Lets burn some books while we're at it. Lets erase every episode of the Cosby Show. WTF?! I am ashamed to have attended MIT. PLEASE put the videos back you idiots!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

How is this the appropriate response? Does it serve as appropriate aid to those harmed and as appropriate punishment or rehabilitation for Dr. Lewin? Does it prevent any further harassment in a way that couldn't be done by means other than removing the courses and videos? None of the videos or lectures themselves objectify, discriminate against or harass anyone. This solution seems to only remove an incredibly good and generous source of education for millions of people, while also punishing Lewin by removing his legacy from MIT education. This does not seem to appropriately allocate the consequences and harms many more in the process.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

1,2. It's a political move. Welcome to 21st century America. Administrators do what they can to keep the mob calm, most of whom act like scared lambs.

Any hint of imagined impropriety towards someone without a Y chromosome leads to panic mode. Values like honesty, due process and strong leadership are quickly trashed.

Instead, it becomes a political game to placate the masses: babble about "social justice," blame problems on philosophically vapid ideas like "patriarchy," and make "heroic" concessions at the expense of freedom.

Again, welcome. Read Games People Play and learn how illogical people are. In the meantime, act like the manipulative upper-middle-class person your parents want you to be. Pretend you help poor people and women by adopting their morally destitute rhetoric. (Just keep in mind the rhetoric is a way of stealing from the hardworking middle class. The upper class is smart and safe.) The world is pretty rigged, but you can do quite well, so optimism is reasonable. Hope this helped man.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#3 - "Honesty and due process are trashed"? Are you joking? The investigation into Dr. Lewin's behavior lasted two months and there was clear evidence of his inappropriate behavior. If a person abuses their position to take advantage of students, they don't deserve to keep that privileged position. It's as simple as that.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#4- He's 78 years old. Ever heard of the grandpa who says some inappropriate words at the dinner table? For all we know, he called her "honey," or did some other behavior that used to be OK but no longer isn't.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I don't condone his behavior. I do believe that taking down the 8.01, 8.02 and 8.03 videos is a mistake. By doing that, MIT is punishing countless thousands of learners-- and that is just wrong. The videos were tremendous and also shot in the same room where I suffered through these courses. Does anyone care to comment on 8.02 in the Spring of 1976. Investigative Tech Reporters-- you might have a story here. Hint: Rose!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#5 - If you think MIT would have removed the lecture videos of an incredibly popular professor and revoked his emeritus status because he called a couple women "honey," you are completely delusional.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Echo #1 #2's concerns. I think this is a big problem of our digital era - we don't own physical copies of these lectures, and so it's possible to "take them down". If these materials were on DVD, would MIT demand that all bookstores burn them and amazon stop carrying them? I don't think so. I think this is an over the top response.

Remove his professor emeritus status. Ban him from edX and other online learning platforms. Close the forums in the course, sure. But punishing thousands, millions of students from learning from a well rated, reviewed physics course?? Why?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am ashame of admiring MIT all these years and attending clases in there, I was proud but not anymore, I will remove from my resume the education in MIT and stand by Dr. Lewin. I met him and I am pretty sure that there are people envious of his success and invented this story to discredit him, He was set up because his voice started to be important in the World. Reif started that, he wants to be famous as Lewin with no success at all.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#7- It's paranoia, not delusion, and paranoia is a very rational emotion. I'm not sure I'm the one who's deluded here.

Look at the rules. MIT's Procedures says anything that contributes to an "offensive" educational environment is harassment. To some hypersensitive Millenials, him saying "honey," "you're beautiful" etc. would be offensive. Thus it's classifiable as repeated harassment. And it could cause quite a stink on the internet, especially given rampant misinterpretation, falsification and so on (you'd be surprised). Enough that the MIT administration would want to cut ties.

Now, of course, my sympathies are with whoever was hurt. Sexual harassment has no place anywhere, especially MIT.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#9- Amen. Your story is implausible but I do not dismiss your sentiment. We do not know what happened. Though I never met Dr. Lewin, he seems like a great person. -3,5,10

Amy about 9 years ago

Unfortunately, the tenor of about half the comments here -- the exploding with rage, the vitriol, the broad-spectrum attacks on "social justice", moral this-and-that, and the general idea that it's a big deal when women are treated poorly at your university...this is a demonstration of why MIT needs to make the point. And it really is unfortunate, because the video lectures are terrific. I took one of the courses myself and thought he was a delight, someone who really knows how to teach.

Those of you responding this way: Understand that you're part of the problem. Calm down (yes, I know that's helpful) and take a hard look at why you're so angrily dismissive of the idea that sexual harassment is a serious barrier to women's success not just at MIT but in STEM fields generally. Think about your own sense of rage and entitlement and where that comes from, and how you yourself regard women -- without making excuses for your attitudes by blaming women for them. I bet it isn't any too nice.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

As person #5 commented Lewin is now 78 year old, and all the so-called harm was done on-line.

MIT's essence and pride is derived from the pursuit of higher knowledge than social fallacies and fashions. But MIT is now itself corroded by political correctness, and suffering from the proliferation of legal and administrative layers which afflict all of western society.

The immense majority of mid-level administrators have no scientific education, even of a rudimentary type, and come from average backgrounds in law, business and marketing. They are overpriced, and operate as largely parasitic systems.

We are not living in a world of Shariah, Inquisition, McCarthyism or Nazism. But all the same, even as most quality scientists (independently of gender) at MIT recognize the idiocy of what took place, Lewin's lifelong valuable contributions were brought down by low-level individuals from the audit and administration layer.

Good luck Prof Lewin. Take solace in knowing that many people recognize how ridiculous your pillorying is.

To Amy commenting on #12: A barrier to the achievement of young women is the low mental level offered by american feminism. Very few women speak of the beauty of science and the pleasure of its pursuit. How can an adolescent girl blossom in that desert?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Our side:

1. We are not angry.

2. We do not dismiss harassment. We view it as immoral.

3. We encourage people of any race, color, sex, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran's status, or age in their pursuit of happiness.

4. We do not dismiss harassment against people of any of those categories.

5. We sympathize with anyone who claims to have been harassed and we do not dismiss the claims of that person.

6. We do not blame any person or group for our problems.

7. We feel lucky to be here and are not entitled.

8. We understand the rights of accused people (Dr. Lewin). We do not dismiss him as having done severe crimes without evidence.

Your side:

1. You accuse people of being angry and tell them to calm down.

2. You say people are "part of the problem" without compelling evidence. You are simply reciting the media narrative, thoughtlessly.

3. You lazily use "tone" as an argument for shutting down debate.

4. You falsely claim people are dismissive of "sexual harassment."

5. You blame "sexual harassment" for lack of "woman's success" when there could be many other factors at work and the issue could be more complicated and less black and white than you make it out to be.

6. You falsely accuse people of blaming women.

I appreciate your opinion, but you've proven my original point and I don't think it is necessary for me to engage any longer. Cheers and good luck with your studies! -11

Anonymous about 9 years ago

What was the charge?

I see people justifying the punishment and the humiliation of a great teacher but I did not see even merely a specific allegation.

Somewhat disturbing given that Professor Lewin undoubtedly irritated other leaders in US secondary and university education with his candid comments and criticism--and his excellent work.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Spring 8.02 1976...arrrgghh!!! That was a cluster. 8.021 that fall was a breeze however. At least then the whole freshman year was P/NR.

I also think that pulling the videos amounts to book burning. Severing ongoing ties, fine. But the videos as part of educational tool were fine.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I'm a woman in STEM and I'm aghast from this news. Sure, if Professor Lewin really did something inappropriate, strip him of his emeritus status and forbid student contact, but why punish thousands of people who use these wonderful lectures to learn physics?

Amy about 9 years ago

I hope some of the responses are not representative of MIT's student body. But they do make me wonder if MIT should follow up its excellent self-studies of 1999 etc. with a study of gender attitudes amongst its own student body. These are after all future leaders in STEM, and if these are attitudes widely-held amongst them ("the low mental level offered by american feminism"; sexual harassment is nothing serious when it comes to women's success), this would be a good thing to know now.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It is not fair to deprive millions of students from learning Physics through Prof. Walter's videos. Surely, the recorded versions can no longer cause any harm to anybody!!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I was following the 8.01x and 8.02x classes online. While I understand the "political" move, remove that material will harm a lot more.

As someone stated above, the material in itself contains no sexual harrasment, and that in itself should be enought to keep providing that education for free. That is a superior goal than the political "let poeple know we -MIT staff- are clean" one.

Now I'll try to download as much of the remaining material as I can...This really sucks deeply.

Anoop about 9 years ago

cant support his behavior if he did anything unethical. But considering his age and what he was/is for millions of students especially he was a magnet who contributed world wide attraction towards MIT.. it will be a justice to him as well as to the students.. if MIT post those videos back!!.. One mistake erases the value of life time contributions.. its really sad to see..

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#18 Stop the willful ignorance. Nobody thinks sexual harassment is "nothing serious." Everyone agrees it is very serious.

It is also interesting that you seem intolerant of criticism of a modern political philosophy that's developed in the last 20-30 years (american feminism) and that surveys show 80 of the country disagrees with [1]. That seems extraordinarily naive and a little bigoted and close-minded, almost fascist. -3,5,10,11,14


Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am a high school physics teacher with degrees in education and physics, as well as an Adjunct Professor for Physics. For years I have suggested to students in my AP physics classes as well as college students to watch these videos as a secondary source, just as Lewin suggests his students use the text. His passion for physics is extraordinary and as many people imply pulling them down does inhibit the learning of countless others. As an educator, I fully support the investigation that occurred after this allegation, however without knowledge of the evidence at hand that MIT used as part of their investigation, speculating that he called a student "honey" would be far from responsible. It was shocking to hear and to read, but in education at any level students do need to feel comfortable as there is always a level of trust. That said, the videos themselves are not egregious in any fashion and give fair chance to all students, of any race or sex to access and learn this material which would be taking a step in the wrong direction. If STEM fields are flooded by men, and STEM classes are flooded by men as suggested by some posts then removing another means of fair access to all seems equally irresponsible. To conclude, if the evidence does support stripping this amazing professor of his titles, I cannot say, however that does not make his lectures any less effective, and by taking them down, MIT has stolen the opportunity for any future student to learn from such an accomplished professional in their field.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I agree that it hurts students to take down the OCW videos, but I'm disappointed by all these rageful comments. Why do these armchair sociologists think they know best about what Walter Lewin did? An investigation was done, and it was determined that if he kept teaching, he would potentially sexually harass more people. I agree they should keep the OCW videos up, but he shouldn't be allowed to make more sexual comments to students.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

MIT found he violated their code of conduct, and that's all we need to know. All those asking what the charge was or speculating he didn't do something all that bad, how can you stand in defense of someone when you have zero information, and it has already been investigated. They know what happened. You don't.

Let's not attempt to think Walter Lewin has been done any injustice or downplay any of his actions. Or even talk about his legacy. If it was proven that a professional has violated a code of conduct of an institution, their legacy at that institution shouldn't be of any concern to anybody. That's their fault. We build and destroy our own legacies with our own actions, and the responsibility is on no one else.

Now a discussion about how students and future learners are affected that's another thing. To question and discuss the utility of removing the lectures. For all those disappointed that MIT removed the lectures, condescendingly ranting about social justice or calling MIT idiots does nothing. We're too far intelligent of a community for that. I imagine there is enough support to petition MIT. The administration will always take into consideration the voice of current students and alumni. Sure, they may not always do what you like, but I imagine there is enough basis to start a conversation about how we can condemn Walter Lewin's actions yet stay true to the goal of contributing to learning.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

An alumna here. From back in the day when MIT was 10 female. The harassment then was more on the level on not taking female students seriously as scientists. I have been harassed plenty in my career, with actual groping. I appreciate that MIT is taking a stand against sexual harassment now. However, I could see if Lewin were an active faculty member, the punishment should be severe. As an emeritus, he has no direct contact with students. His lectures are masterful and inspirational. They should stay online. Should we destroy the writings of authors who turn out to have committed similar offenses? Do not destroy a work of art because the artist is flawed. The art stands on its own

Anonymous about 9 years ago

If I were that student which was harassed, I would readily show up to publicly disprove MIT's reaction to the case. I would see no sense in punishing million of people because of my harassment. I would stand up and defend these people even if would mean sacrificing myself. Please show courage and fight against this evil ideology which currently surrounds MIT's direction!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

The anger here is over book burning in the digital age. Petitioning a regime asking them to halt the activity has had a historically poor success rate. MIT should understand the history of science, where disruptive ideas over history have resulted in prison or worse, accompanied by the purging of works. Shame on MIT for being a political victim and not protecting the free exchange of ideas.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

MIT needs to pull the plug on OpenCourseWare and go back to "ClosedCourseWare." Some parents are paying over 50K a year in tuition for MIT to purposely allow free riders to reap the benefits of an MIT education. Protect the integrity of the education and not just the coveted diploma that comes along with it.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

So sad for everyone concerned. MIT's response will deprive millions of a valuable educational resource to no useful purpose.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

What a tragedy - the impact of MIT's decision to take his online lectures off will be felt most where students suffer the hardest to get exposure to brilliant lectures. We in Africa, and I suppose other countries on the globe who do not have ready access to Physics being explained staight simple shall suffer the more for it. Please, if the man has to be punished, do not punish us as well!

Bret about 9 years ago

Unfortunate that the good professor offended online a few fainting flowers of femininity. No doubt my previous sentence, if I were affiliated with MIT (other than being an alum), would also violate MIT policy.

I do wonder what he did online that was so terrible. I suppose if he did something like sending explicit and lewd propositions with pornographic selfies, that would certainly justify MIT severing all relations with him. Hopefully, whatever he did was a bit more than calling a couple of people "honey" as was suggested above or calling them fainting flowers of feminity.

If Lewin doesn't make a public statement, then I have no choice but to assume that MIT is completely justified in severing ties. I don't see how taking perfectly non-sexual instructional videos offline helps, but hey, that's just me (and maybe women find the video of "swinging on steel balls" too much to handle, so they could at least take that one down).

And Amy, please don't go into STEM. You'll hate it and you won't be doing us any favors. Or if you do go into STEM, start an all-woman company. We'll all be happier and more productive that way.

Dale Langdon about 9 years ago

There were 20 comments that almost unanimously called for the restoration of the teaching videos. They all disappeared at 2014-12-09 18:23 UTC. Many of them equated the removal of the videos with "book burning."

It would seem that the comments have now also been burned.

Usually, the comments under articles are ridiculous. These were amazing.

Will Conway about 9 years ago

Hey everyone,

I'm one of the production editors at the Tech. We've had an internal server error that removed the comments from before around 1:15pm. We're working on restoring the comments from our backup.

Sorry guys :(

Dale Langdon about 9 years ago

If the restoration of the previous comments entails wiping mine, by all means proceed :)

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I support MIT's decision to take down the lectures. Obviously Lewin's behavior was egregious enough for MIT to wish to cut ties with him and if he wanted to leave his legacy intact, he shouldn't have shot himself in the foot like this. Such a measure will help others think twice before abusing their power.

Lewin's lectures were amusing and well-done, but there are many other resources available for those wishing to learn introductory physics. People have managed to learn basic mechanics before his lectures went online, and they will continue to do so after they have been taken down.

Dale Langdon about 9 years ago

People have managed to learn basic mechanics before MIT was founded, and they will continue to do so after it has been taken down.

I wish there were someone on the MIT campus just copying everything we might need to enlighten ourselves such that it no longer served as the self imposed and enforced gateway of knowledge.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It is extremely disappointing to see so many commenters disagree with the actions taken by MIT to protect women from harassment. Harassment and violence against women is not a "lesser" crime or one that should be overlooked and those guilty should be punished accordingly. As a well known academic scholar, Walter Lewin is known by many and if the videos were to remain live, the message sent to those thousands of students would be one of indifference towards these crimes. What Prof. Lewin did is a serious offense and as one of the students who helped to rewrite the sexual harassment policy in recent years, I am proud that MIT has a zero tolerance policy for this behavior. I am glad that an institution like MIT which is known to be a leader not only in technology and education, but in social issues as well, is taking a stand against any form of harassment against women and otherwise.

Dale Langdon about 9 years ago

And as already pointed out numerous times above, removal of the media protects no one.

Burning the books of the heretic does indeed send a message. Throughout history, it always has. Does that message have any relation to protection or justice?

Bret about 9 years ago

#38 wrote: " one of the students who helped to rewrite the sexual harassment policy in recent years ..."

Oh, so you're to blame! :-)

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I can still read Mein Kampf and The Little Red Book. So for Prof Lewin works to have been banned, he must have done something worse than mass murder. In the name of equality, let us hear his words no more. Zero tolerance!!!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Mr. Langdon - I assume the Aaron Swartz video is meant to encapsulate your feeling that you are an outsider fighting against the actions of an unjust and monolithic institution. The irony here is that endemic sexism is the true monolith, and if we are to encourage an open and free culture of knowledge, we cannot let the swaggering 'giants' (and of course Lewin is known as a giant to a relatively select semi-intellectual few) do as they wish to the detriment of those who hope to join the conversation and ultimately the greater scientific stage.

Anonymous about 9 years ago


8 Million views and no one complains. The material is very important for everyone who wants to learn about the subjects he teaches.

Because someone can't handle the professor's style of teaching now everyone suffers.

What's more important? I think it is neccesary to make a statement against this and find a way to put the material back on the web.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I'll only have a problem with this if MIT starts delivering takedown notices to other people who post the videos. MIT is free to host whatever the hell it wants on its servers. They're not "deleting" or "burning" the videos, they're just not hosting them anymore. The videos still exist and other people are free to host/post them.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Maybe it's a good idea if the people who are responsible for this action of removing the good material especially the "harrased" womango to go public and tell everyone why they now miss the lectures and material, because someone is sad about the professor's so called behaviour. I think it's nonsense and I hope Lewin takes this case into court and wins.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This story has several layers. One of them pertains to the alleged claims. The other pertains to the process and MITs answer.

Prof. Lewis was officially cast away and publicly shamed. The reported victim can pursue further litigation if s/he desires so.

Why is MIT further going after Prof. Lewis work??

By that measure Turings work should have been expunged for the depravity and lewdness of Turings private ways. For back then his life was perceived and framed as totally amoral.

MITs administration may want to appear moral. It is instead displaying feebleness, confusion and lack of moral standing.

Bret about 9 years ago

#44, Do all the videos exist somewhere else? If so, I absolutely agree with you.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To commenter #2 and others with their sentiment - Most victims of abuse are forced to deal with the continued success of their abusers, many of whom are allowed to continue their lives without any punishment for their actions. The idea that a response similar to MIT's occurs anytime 'someone without a Y chromosome' (commenter #3's words) is wronged by someone in a place of power is absurd - MIT's actions are notable because they are outside of the norm.

The bravery that this woman displayed in reporting her abuse is admirable, since many institutions of higher education do not take appropriate measures to protect victims or blame the victim for their own experiences (see for one of many examples). MIT's administration is not perfect, but this decision shows that women may step forward with their complaints and actually expect consequences regarding those that they report.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Hi Will,

I'd saved the story plus comments to #19, if you'd like a txt copy of those comments please email me at my supplied address.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

And after reloading the page I see that post 49 is moot.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Hello person #38 !

If you are as"proud" as you claim, and as you claim to act on behalf of MIT's overall good, why don't you cast away the mask of anonymity, and present your name, and bask in your deserved reward.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#51: right, because in addition to your right to watch videos of abusive jerks, you also have the right to know the name of anyone who doesn't agree with you

Sara '99 about 9 years ago

I remember Prof. Lewin guest lecturing in 8.02 - it was such a vivid class that I remember it still, 18 years later. I'm shocked to read this article, disappointed in this news, and sad that future students will miss out on seeing some of these videos.

However, my disappointment is more than offset by my appreciation of the action MIT has taken. The MIT Administration must have known that they were going to take some shots for this action. I don't believe that they would do this over something insignificant - why would they? They gave themselves plenty of time for investigation. They listened to Lewin's side of the story. And they made a decision - good for them.

Women absorb plenty of sexist comments and micro aggressions in the course of their professional lives - I know I have. It can be hard for people to speak up when they see something that rises to the level of harassment. When harassment occurs, institutions like MIT have to take a stand.

Yes, it's sad. Yes, it's disappointing. But yes, it's better than looking the other way while someone, even a beloved professor, preys on a student.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Sara of #53.

Respectfully, why would you see it as a positive that Lewis' work be removed?

This would seem to call for a moral police to expunge works from amoral authors.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

RE: #48

In the world of big-time academia, the prestige associated with creating courses, on-line or otherwise, is close to zero. It is considered a service. To you and many undergrads, Lewin life's work may be 8.01 and 8.02. But that's not reality. The guy was a tenured professor at the most prestigious physics dept. in the world, and that appointment was on the basis of RESEARCH--his 450 research articles.

My point isn't to say how great he is. The point is that by taking the videos off-line you haven't hurt his success at all. You've essentially eliminated community service, the online product which exists and which can help people regardless of gender learn physics. If you truly feel that the educational environment is toxic for girls, then online education is vital so that girls can supplement their classroom experiences. And his courses are probably the best thing on edx. Even the other MIT physics courses used his videos.

The online videos and/or courses do not need Lewin's involvement anymore, and therefore, leaving them up does not pose any danger to anyone.

Separating MIT from Lewin is appropriate, but the response of removing the videos is amazingly obtuse and wrongheaded.

Dale Langdon about 9 years ago

Anonymous #42,

Thank you for considering my feelings.

Unfortunately, they are irrelevant to the point many on this thread are attempting to make.

It seems the disagreement is precisely about what constitutes "appropriate measures." What we see is alleged inappropriate behavior being addressed with an inappropriate response. (That is why I provided the link. Thanks again for asking.)

There is some fraction of duplication of those lectures on other public servers. However, it would now seem that any lecture that a student might wish to reference in the future needs to be backed up elsewhere in the event that the presenter violates a school policy. Local backups do not seem to be sufficient for this particular form of disaster.

As whether or not I am an outsider is irrelevant, perhaps it would be constructive to ponder instead:

Aaron - Insider or Outsider? Handled appropriately?

Walter - Insider or Outsider? Handled appropriately?

The woman that reported - Insider or Outsider? Handled appropriately? (On school grounds? Matriculated?)

There have been a couple devaluations of the complaint per se ("Honey"), but most of the posts so far do not question the rights or bravery of the anonymous accuser, all of the actions (as a package) that have been taken by the administration, or my feelings.

As such, these are all red herrings.

We just want the videos back. While perhaps not perfect, that is an action that is easily reversible.

In short, let us know if we need to duplicate all the "free" course materials in case of matters within your control.

(Funny, my local host name, sent in the email header used in your moderation system, is 'monolith.' Quite a system you have there.)

Anonymous about 9 years ago

As a current student at MIT, I am so proud of the work that the administration has done to protect the rights of the students. I came into the institution believing that higher degree learning and exploration of brilliant ideas is of the utmost importance, and that meritocracy allowed us to get away for being slightly politically incorrect - but I was wrong. O how blind I was towards the injustices to the world. I have truly become a new human being over these years.

These sexual harrassment cases usually committed by insensitive cisgender white upper-middle class males like Walter Lewin deserve to be publicly humiliated and punished. I condemn Prof Lewin no strike that sexual deviant Walter Lewin to the grave. He is a terrible man and this one huge act of sexual harassment completely defeats the entire purpose of his existence.

Even more I believe that MIT has not done enough. Every corner I turn I see my female colleagues getting sexually harassed, maybe because they just can't push as hard to the front of the cupcake line, or maybe because they don't have enough time to study because they need to apply makeup. Well I will be fighting so that these women get their cupcakes and 26 hours per day, because I care for women rights.

But enough is enough. There shall be no more of this, and I applaud MIT for taking such a big stand against sexual harassment - a social evil that suddenly rose in prominence in this last 2 years, like Kale, or Taylor Swift. It shows that our institution tackles the trendiest pc topics, which is the cornerstone that MIT is founded upon.

O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two ginscented tears trickle down the sides of my nose. But eventually it will be all right, everything will be all right, the struggle will be finished. Everyone will have won the victory over political correctness. Everyone will have loved big brother.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To commenter #55: As I am not an undergrad and am in fact currently working towards a Ph.D in a well-respected STEM department, I have no need for you to explain to me how the academic hiring process works. I am perfectly aware of things like 'research articles' and 'tenure,' thanks very much.

Your comment is self-contradictory - if Lewin's videos are so unimportant to him and to MIT, then why do we need his singular point of view to remain hosted on MIT's servers? The world is not so starved of educators that the Lewin lectures need to monopolize online education, especially when Lewin abused his position as an educator. It's best to show that students need not be forced to take their education from those who abuse minority groups.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I understand the disappointment that comes with the perceived "book burning" that is occurring here. However, allow me to point to the most important line from the press release: "We must take the greatest care that everyone who comes to us for knowledge and instruction, whether in classrooms or online, can count on MIT as a safe and respectful place to learn." Read that again carefully. The videos are being removed not to punish Walter or anybody else; the videos are being removed because it was felt that they must be in order to uphold this single sentence. As somebody who knows a little bit more of the story, I can say that yes, the result of the investigation was that serious, and the decision to remove the materials was not, in any way, taken lightly.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I totally get the "Bad Grandpa" analogy and I understand that removing quality and helpful material from the internet may be viewed as abrupt and an over-reaction, but would not leaving the material and access to Mr. Lewin available online appear to be dismissive of an apparently valid complaint of sexual harassment? I suspect that in due time another program of suitable materials will take the place of those that were removed.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To #58:

You justify the worth of your work in that you are in a "well-respected department". This is a Freudian slip. External perspectives are at the center of your value system.

The MIT mystique derives from the pursuit of things that matter in the Universe for their own great sake. We share the joy of the pursuit, but the journey is illuminated by a non self-referential light.

Einstein used to speak metaphorically of the work of God.

Erdos used to speak of proofs from the Book.

The institution must be open. But too many narcissistic perspectives endanger its very spirit.

Caroline Morganti '16 about 9 years ago


How could the videos themselves possibly contribute to the safety of the learning environment at MIT? There's no offensive content there. If someone doesn't want to watch his videos knowing about his alleged crimes, they're free to avoid watching them.

Caroline Morganti '16 about 9 years ago

60: "but would not leaving the material and access to Mr. Lewin available online appear to be dismissive of an apparently valid complaint of sexual harassment?"

I think these are two separate questions. Whether or not Prof. Lewin should have contact with students through edX is a question that should be subject to an investigation (and it seems that investigation already happened, and it was decided that he endangered the safety of the students.) The other question is whether his OCW videos (and also edX videos/content) should be left up. In my opinion, there's no justification for removing the educational content itself.

Dale Langdon about 9 years ago

Oh please, don't tell Cornell about the stunts this jackass pulled...

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Mr. Langdon - thanks for addressing me as though I am part of the administration. It's clear that I must be, since I happened to use a word that also apparently shows up in system information that I definitely have access to, and I am clearly here presenting my opinions as a matter of damage control. I will totally give you all of your videos back now, so that you can watch them and continue to add to the world's supply of entitled persons who also possibly even know some physics. As you yourself are clearly a student at MIT who needs the exact materials hosted on those specific servers, I am so sorry to have wronged you. Cheers! -#42

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am so glad I graduated from MIT years before this ninny political correctness reigned its ugly head. Regardless of the findings of harassment, removing the lectures is idiotic and can in no way serve justice. This is clearly a publicity campaign to absolve MIT of any blame.

To be clear, I do not condone sexual harassment. But like most of the misdirection in the media, Lewin's lectures had nothing to do with sexual harassment. I expected more from MIT.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#57 - I am a great admirer of sarcasm! Kudos to you! :-)

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To #59:

Your comment sounds like the pontificating of an administrative person being challenged, and used to deflect criticism by invoking language of law or power. You call on the reader to reflect on the arcane meaning of a sentence, but you do not address personally the meaning of the sentence.

These are characteristics of people that have aged into legal or administrative power, and who have forgotten the dispute of ideas. The open presentation of facts, and clear dispute of ideas is what MIT is about.

Secret police the world over also invoke their special knowledge of facts allegedly confessed, and their understanding of crimes allegedly committed.

Bret about 9 years ago

59 wrote: "... the videos are being removed because it was felt that they must be in order to uphold this single sentence ..."

I personally don't think that "single sentence" has much merit. However, let's assume it does have some merit, for now.

How does removing the videos help accomplish that which is described by that "single sentence?"

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It's possible that Prof. Lewin is old enough he's becoming senile, or has Alzheimer's, both of which conditions can mean someone can say and do sexually inappropriate things. That doesn't mean that everything Lewin did in the past is now to be erased from the earth. That said, sexual harassment should never, ever be condoned.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To #58:

"Your comment is self-contradictory - if Lewin's videos are so unimportant to him and to MIT, then why do we need his singular point of view to remain hosted on MIT's servers?"

My post was not self-contradictory. The videos aren't terribly important to either MIT's standings or Lewin's career. What they are important for is to undergrads and high school students of modest means and limited accessibility to good education. I'm not sure what you mean by "singular point of view." Are you referring to his explanation of physics?

Your comment seem to come from the point-of-view that Lewin's edx work was some representation of his "success". Also, I may have conflated #48 with #38, which represent similar sentiments but may be different people. Anonymous comments and replies make things difficult. #38 mentions refers to being an undergrad, so it made it sound like they were an undergrad or recent grad.

The other issue is the course text and problems itself. Do all of those things also need to be replaced? So problem sets also need to be rewritten now because they remind people of Lewin?

-An alumnus

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Dear #59,

"As somebody who knows a little bit more of the story, I can say that yes, the result of the investigation was that serious, and the decision to remove the materials was not, in any way, taken lightly."

Can you enlighten us, then, on those actions and why you think MIT's response is appropriate? Your comment elicits greatly the "Trust us, we can't tell you why, but just trust us" undertone of modern authoritarians.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

62, 69: I agree, there is nothing offensive about the videos themselves (read on).

68: I'm asking you to read between the lines, rather than take the announcement simply at face value (do you think they would do this for a slap-on-the-write offense?).

Note MIT has taken its most severe course of action -- to cut ties with Lewin. It is incapable of further action, such as launching a criminal investigation, for example. Walter is still capable of causing further harm to people. The point of removing these materials is to limit all avenues of communication with potential future victims. MIT is being appropriately cautious, in my opinion.


Anonymous about 9 years ago


There is not a shortage of places to learn physics on the internet. OCW itself has other lecture videos and associated courses covering the same material Lewin covered. This argument that removing one set of introductory physics lectures from the internet is depriving impoverished children of an education is a red herring. Online learners can watch any other series of lecture videos covering first year physics.

Also, I would argue that the videos were important to Lewin's legacy. Although his research was his most difficult accomplishment, from the perspective of those within the scientific community, he had a unique opportunity to reach outside of academia with these lecture videos. Teachers in high schools all over the world played his videos to supplement their curriculum and inspire their students. Through the videos, he could impact people far outside the scope of academia, which was clearly important to him (looking at his published books, etc).

His insight into introductory physics wasn't unique, so students, arguably, aren't losing anything. Removing the videos and his emeritus title signals to the world that MIT will not stand for sexual harassment, and has a severely negative impact on his reputation/legacy.

An aside: this is not at all like book burning. MIT has every right to host or not host content. Declining to continue hosting content created in part by someone found to have violated institute policies is not an unreasonable act.

Rob '87 about 9 years ago

#59 wrote: " the videos are being removed because it was felt that they must be in order to uphold this single sentence [MIT as a safe and respectful place to learn]."

Professor Lewin certainly couldn't be classified as safe or respectful. His passion for teaching and his love of physics shined through in so many different ways, but most memorable for me is the day that, as he put it, we lost our Maxwell's Equations virginity. I figured that was his goal - to give his students reasons to be interested in the material and remember it, and perhaps to fall in love with it as he did.

Is discussing losing one's virginity the safest and most respectful way to present the material? No. I suspect my 18.06 teacher was safe and respectful ... but 30 years later, I couldn't tell you for sure, because I don't remember a thing from that class. But I remember the day I learned about Maxwell's Equations.

If you want safe and respectful, professors should go back to reading from their books during lecture. What a shame that would be.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#74: The videos are gone as are all the text, problem sets, and exams. The content is gone; you can't find it elsewhere. So the analogy to bookburning is appropriate.

If you haven't taken them, the EdX classes are set up where they insert short explanations in between the exercises. So the text is not easily substituted. Other than the videos, the rest of the course doesn't have any attribution to Lewin. What is the argument for throwing these away too? How much of the course was produced by other people? Maybe someone else wrote the problems, exams, and the text. Does it matter?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

to #73 / #59:

1. You are the oly one here to refer to "Walter" in a patronizing way. Whatever you claim he did, he may be appropriately referred to as Prof Lewin. This would in no way distract to the consideration of the claims - if claims indeed were to be looked into.

2. Even if Prof Lewin had connected with with underage students, a legal framework could be established barring him from connecting further to students, and a filtering of his communication could be established. Clearly you had him by the throat.

There was no need to go through that public parading and shaming cum secrecy worthy of the soviet system.

Bret about 9 years ago

59/73 wrote: "The point of removing these materials is to limit all avenues of communication with potential future victims"

I see. So some physics student and intrepid sleuth might, after viewing one of the lectures, somehow track down Lewin's email address, even though he no longer has an email address with MIT. Said student might be female and be inappropriately communicated with by Lewin. Is that what you're saying MIT is afraid of?

So. This unlikely event versus definitely many thousands of students missing out on the lectures. That doesn't seem like reasonable balance to me.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

My father, a fellow renowned Dutch astrophysicist, has known Walter longer than anyone here. He is a brilliant teacher and scientist, no doubt, but can be an incredibly, insufferable, arrogant jerk who's always had numerous problems with women. His YouTubes are fantastic. He is a great scientist. But, he's had something a long time coming, and now it's here. We are not in the least surprised. Don't feel sorry for him. He did this to himself out of arrogance because he always got away with everything. I cannot believe that with all of his brilliance, he thought he could get away with harassing students online. He's almost 80. I thought he knew better by now. Good luck to you Walter. Aside from alienating your peers and ruining numerous conferences and social events, you also managed to lose your coveted title classes. It's just plain sad.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

When I heard about this, my first thought was that perhaps Dr. Lewin has gone a bit senile in his advanced age. Why else would he begin such behavior after a long and celebrated career?

For this reason, I'm inclined to be sympathetic with him. Of course, stop his online student interactions and make sure it (whatever "it" is) doesn't happen again. Take away his platform and end official relationships with the university. But public humiliation and destruction of his legacy seems cruel and unnecessary. Taking down the video lectures does not make the victim whole; this is blatant political ass-covering, and nothing more.

I'm a female in STEM, so I don't take these things lightly. But, worst case, we're talking about a man being a jerk over the internet. Ladies, you know this happens all the time. This is what our thick skins are for. Learning to deal with that is part of being a woman in STEM.

Dr. Lewin's videos are one of the reasons I applied to MIT, and so it's not an exaggeration to say that his work changed my life. Sad to see that taken away from the world.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

What's just plain sad is what a narrow-minded, disproportionate response attempting to purge all trace of Prof Levin is.

#79 - You're entitled to your opinion I'm sure, anonymous offspring of renowned Dutch astrophysicist. Presumably, so am I: what a jerk you demonstrate yourself to be.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To 59/73:

An extensive and thorough vote among alarmed students has expressed the need for MIT to quickly clean all libraries from books from Lewis Caroll. The vote is nearly unanimous across a representative sample of MIT students, but names cannot be revealed to protect the privacy of those involved.

Also, most urgently, Bill Clinton is a living peripatetic danger, and MIT libraries should be thoroughly cleaned of his books and all electronic recordings. There is agreement in the Institute that such dangerous material may be left to Harvard and their uncouth school of government.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I think that no matter Walter Lewin has sexually harassed or not one or more women, his lectures should not been pulled out.

If he has indeed harassed anyone, he should be punished according the Law. That's for sure. But the quality of his lectures is very well aknowledged and I believe it is a pity for future learners to lack the opportunity to enjoy them.

Cloudswrest about 9 years ago

Those recorded lectures must be pretty dangerous. Thank God Richard Feynman passed away before he could be humiliated in this way.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

The removal of the material does not only affect Prof Lewin. Many people have collaborated across the institute to produce the material.

The removal of the material

deprives students of immensely valued material

penalizes and demoralizes those who contributed their best effort across the years to work with Prof Lewin

casts a pall over all edX

sends doubts about who is in charge at MIT, and what the value system at MIT truly is.

Who wins: the self-centered administrative do-gooders in charge of PR PC. But there may be a come-back of the pendulum. And they will have to hustle to Lewin's material to learn how to handle the movement of that pendulum. Hopefully for them, they will have kept the recordings in private archives.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

MIT wanted to set an example and be a positive influence on how universities handle cases of sexual misconduct.

It has therefore capitulated to the demands of the radical social "progressives" and feminists and engaged on a scorched-earth approach of cutting all ties and renouncing all titles and burying all achievements. Those who push their social agendas have no problem with yelling and shouting everyone else down until they are satisfied - judging by how we're mostly anonymous here, I suspect more than a few of us have had experiences with this unsavoriness. Not wanting this kind of public backlash, MIT is forced to go 'all the way', all guns blazing, at the outset.

"To set an example".

Listen to all of these comments going "Well, his lectures weren't the best anyway" or "There are other ways to learn physics". Like they would say the same thing if the professor in question were a person of color (Using that term makes me shudder, but it's the quickest way to get it across) or gender/sexually nonconforming. They grasp at reasons to downplay and dismiss others' concerns about the overreaching totality of MIT's decisions because it suits their political agenda.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It happened to Michael Jackson, these people tried to discredit him accusing him of pedofilia and as it did not work they decided to kill him. I stand by Dr. Lewin and accuse MIT of being a liar. Dr. Lewing was so famous that his words will be heard and the very rulers of MIT and the goverment does not want that. We are ruled by psycopats.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

If you still want the videos, check iTunes university. If those go down, comment here and I'll get a torrent of my local copies set up.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Reif con todos sus doctorados y maestras y esas cosas nunca dej de ser un tierruo. Shame on you MIT.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I think taking down the videos was excessive; physics students probably would've gotten a lot out of them. It must be bitterly disappointing to a lot of people who knew him personally as well, as I imagine I would be, if my own admired professors were involved in something like this, and even worse, if he were the actual culprit. But to all the people here alleging the guy probably just called the women "honey", note that they haven't revealed ANY of the details concerning this case. Yes, maybe this is just MIT's administrations being PC and freaking out, but it's just as easy to assume what this guy did was absolutely unacceptable and traumatic for those victims involved. The point is, we don't know any better, and the way your assumptions fall reveals your own biases, not MIT's.

88: Thank you for the info. This is, honestly, the first time I've heard of these online courses. As a female math major, I've had more than a passing interest in physics. What a shame to discover this guy just as his videos are taken down.

Marianne Breinig about 9 years ago

Dr. Lewin is 78 years old. If he is starting to behave out of character now, maybe it is a medical problem. People with onset of dementia often behave inappropriatly.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

One thing we must keep in mind is how we would react if we learned instead that Lewin was implicated in a crime we mentally assign more seriousness to, like murder.

What if instead he were implicated in a massive peer-review fraud?

Or if he was involved in a Ponzi scheme and bilked tens of hundreds of millions of dollars from investors?

The latter already happened, see:

Would you think it was appropriate what MIT did then? If so, how do you reach your conclusion and justify that one action is severely punishable and the other not?

Anonymous about 9 years ago


Thank you - this is a most relevant remark. Bitran was a financial crook. Beyond him lies the grey zone of financial optimization - a universe where the difference between serious science hard to calibrate, suboptimal products, and outright hoaxes is hard to to delineate - a universe where a vast number of MIT affiliates are operating.

Is MIT going to take action in the Bitran case? Of course not. First because the Feds are already there. But also because it is easier to go after the puny and rather irrelevant Lewin imbroglio. And also, because Lewin is cleanly "dirty" - meaning he can be clearly isolated and ostracized. In the case of Bitran a number of other MIT names are implicitly impacted. The name of the game for all involved is to circumscribe the fall out.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Cultural norms used to come from a fatherly metaphor (God) who understand the evil of human nature, the importance of good character and the necessity of forgiveness. He viewed his people as a family.

It took suffering, wisdom and chance to conceive of Him, man's greatest invention.

Today, God is "social justice," and it is in the hands of naive middle class women and vapid, overconfident charlatans. Do these people have the erudition and life experience to construct a civilized system of justice?

Consider the 10 commandments of academia:

1. It is hate speech to criticize a woman or minority.

2. Close your eyes and follow the media consensus to avoid thought crime.

3. God speaks to you through naive, sheltered women on Twitter, and their allies.

4. Offensiveness and clumsiness are the most unforgivable crimes.

5. A woman's problems stem from other people, never herself.

6. Inborn traits like IQ, not character, determine the worth of a person.

7. The problem of our time is inequality, not lack of character.

Fixed morality is replaced with relativism, mental confusion, intolerance and a thin skin. It is little surprise a feeble, naive 78 year old who has devoted his retirement to helping others is ex-communicated, and his materials crossed out, for an undisclosed impropriety with a person online. Catering to the incoherent philosophy of the weak is the way of today's world. Would yout throw your grandpa out in the street if he said something rude to a person online, who happened to have two X chromosomes?

The facts are in. McCarthy did not do enough to rid the US of its communist infection.

[I release this comment to the public domain.]

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Hey #94 is it typical of brilliant iconoclasts such as yourself to not know the difference between 10 commandments and seven?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#95 Nitpicking is the unmistakable mark of cluelessness.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It seems that most people who are objecting to the video removal in a reasonable tone (ignoring the far too many flame messages) misunderstand why this was done. It was certainly not that there was anything inherently dangerous or objectionable in the videos themselves. The issue as I understand it is that by hosting the videos, MIT was contributing to a situation which made it more likely that people in the future would want to contact Walter Lewin and would be potentially exposed to harassment. MIT is not burning any books, it is simply no longer adding to the reputation of a person who, because of his own actions, no longer deserves to be a symbol of MIT. MIT is strongly committed to on-line education and will certainly continue work to provide similar resources. They simply chose to take some time to decide how to do so in a way which does not further enhance the reputation (and thereby potential future harm) of an individual who has abused that position.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Not to nitpick, #94, but putting forth seven commandments when you promise 10 is the unmistakable mark of cluelessness, or perhaps the writer's lack of discernment. Sorry to bust the flow of your delightful troll-fest.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

to #97:

Hell is paved with good intentions.

And hell on earth comes from groups acting against 'deviationists', miscreants, non-believers and the such.

Special tribunals are organized, to met out punishment in secret, based on compliance with dogma.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

When I first heard this news, I was outraged. I thought MIT was acting cowardly, bending under the weight of politics and prevailing social thought and doing irreparable damage to a great man.

But I've calmed down and I've started thinking. I'm currently applying to MIT. For me, a major component of MIT's allure is the idea that it is a place of freedom: students who study there--regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, beliefs--are free to grow, explore, and contribute to the world, uninhibited by negative social customs. In making its decision, MIT is considering the big picture. MIT recognizes the fact that they must continue to uphold this defining characteristic for the sake of children in generations to come. They are thinking about the students of today and the process of integrating women into STEM, and they realize that their decision--just like a court decision--will have an impact on the future. They have "sacrificed" one--a great one-- to protect many more.

Despite what has happened, Professor Lewin was and always will be a truly amazing professor. I remember seeing an interview of his where he explained how he would practice his lecture in the morning before presenting it to the class. That level of dedication and love I have not seen in many people. I love watching his lectures and I dearly hope I will get to see them again; I give them a lot of credit for helping me to actually learn physics, and not just how to manipulate numbers and mindlessly repeat concepts. I believe that taking them down was unnecessary and hurtful to so many people. Those lectures are true labors of love. They effectively teach physics and are something that gives many kids the confidence to even try to become engineers and scientists. They are something this world still needs.

And I will continue to hope that the news will one day say that Professor Lewin's harassment was simply misconstrued words and that his work will again reach many people unmarred by this event.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

At #81 and #91. Yes, he's a brlliant scientist and lecturer. We all agree on that. But...there is a dark side that we know him all too well. Ask around in the physics and astrophysics scientific community what he's done throughout the years with women and how badly he has treated his colleagues and people in his personal life. He has no boundaries and is a total narcissist. He's not senile. He's always been this way. You are all infatuated with the persona of Walter the magnificient teacher. We know him better than that. And if you think I'm a jerk, No. 81, Walter is the jerk here. Otherwise, MIT would not have severed his ties with him after nearly 50 years.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am so glad the 100th comment was actually worth reading.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It's a real shame the such a physicist would falter in his personal life, we don't need any more barriers to women in this field. I do not take his side. That said, I do not take MIT's either. The move was politically motivated, an effort to reduce fallout from the scandal. It was Political, and that's unacceptable. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of kids around the world learn physics from those videos. MIT is stripping those kids of their physics educations in order to save its own reputation. Yes MIT wants to set a positive president for itself. But to do that at the expense of so many? Selfish, reprehensible, almost pathetic. Something I would expect from a weaker institution, one that wasn't Dedicated to Disseminating and Preserving Knowledge. Punish Walter Lewin to the fullest extent of the law, but don't punish a hundred thousand kids just to save your image.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I seriously doubt he said anything prurient. If I were to speculate, he probably got frustrated with some female (ahem) "learner" and told her she possessed insufficient passion aptitude for physics and that she was probably better off as a homemaker or nurse.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I agree with the first comment.

Put back the videos !!

Why would you punish also the students and the next generation of teachers or professors ???

"Summum jus summa injuria." said Marcus T. Cicero, 106-43 BC

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Dr. Lewin's lecture videos are lucid and engaging, but to say that alone justifies keeping them, without regard to his character, is myopic.

It is refreshing to see MIT take the stand that there are things that matter more than technical excellence, and that we are willing to forego what arguably is a material attachment in order to send a strong message against sexual harassment and the degrading treatment of people. We can't have too utilitarian a view of instructional materials.

It's the same reason many supporters of marriage equality boycotted Chik-Fil-A. As tasty as the chicken sandwiches were, principle mattered more.

I'm an old crust who just dropped by. I've seen sexual harassers in the corporate world be slapped on the wrist, shuffled around different positions, never dismissed. It's disgusting. I am proud to see MIT leading by example.

There's something else I learned too in industry: no one is indispensable. Not even Dr. Lewin. Our society has mores. No one is above them.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

How do you even sexually harass someone in an online class? You don't know what anyone looks like, and the professor typically has no live interaction with the student.

I've taken one MITX class, and there is no interaction with the course director other than taped lectures. The only representatives of the course a student may interact with are community TAs (people who took the course before and who volunteer to TA) and staff people in the forums. And the staff only shows if someone alerts them that there is a technical problem or a mistake in a solution. And there is no private messaging possible; any post on a forum is seen by all.

Has anyone taken the 8.01 or 8.02 MITx with Lewin? Was he present on the forums at all?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Allegations of misdeeds by one or a few individuals are enough for MIT to cut all ties to Prof. Emeritus Lewin, and for MIT to try to eradicate all the good work Lewin did. Yet admission of outright fraud upon the entire Americn people by Jonathan Gruber has yet to elicit any response from MIT. What's wrong with this picture?

HVT about 9 years ago

I think that this isn't a wise decision of MIT. You prevent further inappropriate behavior, that's right. But there is no way you deny everything he has done to the school and to many generations of MIT students, remove all of his work is not a way to solve this incident. A man should be punished by what he had done, but he should also be appreciated and be respected for what he had dedicated. That's all. Wish you can read this. From a student with a MIT dream.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This decision is degrading to women. Are women not intelligent enough to watch amazing lectures by a brilliant retired professor, without actively seeking him out online and taking some clumsy comments which would've been more appropriate in the 50s?

MIT's behavior treats women like infants, unable to act with a trace of common sense. I don't defend sexual harassment, but extreme punishment has a sinister, destructive side.

I have a higher opinion of the women I've met. They are much more intelligent than infants. They would be able to watch the lectures and appreciate them. If their friend's grandpa calls them "honey," they don't burn the grandpa's books and permanently tar his name. Instead, they get over the rude, out-of-place, micro-aggression and act like good people, working on themselves and contributing to the people around them.

Register my disagreement with the assumption that women are not intelligent enough to watch the disgraced professor's videos.

Anonymous about 9 years ago


Anonymous about 9 years ago

Perhaps there are gradations of harassment. Virtual sexual harassment seems a grey area - a retired professor ending up exchanging dirty thoughts/acts with one of thousands of students on a screen with an on/off button...

Did Lewin seek her out, or she him? Did the student report Lewin immediately or gather evidence and report him months later? Was she married and did her husband finding out motivate her actions? Who knows.

Does MIT have a love/hate relationship with Lewin, embracing his brilliant teaching and the publicity he has created for the institute, while abhorring his outspoken nature and narcissism? Did this relationship play a role in the institute's decision to remove all of his work to protect Lewin's students from him? Again, who knows.

What I know, is that Lewin is one of the best and most inspiring teachers of all time. MIT's indefinite "book burning" seems an opportunity lost. Perhaps Lewin could have emerged from this grey area as a converted internationally renowned poster grandpa for the anti harassment cause.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This strikes me as an old man misunderstanding the internet. It is plausible to me that someone tweeted something sexual to him as a joke, possibly using a throwaway twitter account, and he did not understand either that (a) twitter is not private (also clear in that these tweets are still up after a two-month investigation...) and/or (b) that the person was joking/being obnoxious and it was not appropriate for him to respond in kind.

That is my speculation based on a handful of tweets, and it also seems likely to me that there were other inappropriate interactions, probably over email:

Anonymous about 9 years ago

When I was a graduate student at MIT, the faculty permitted sexual relationships between professors and their graduate students. I assume they still do. I am surprised that emeritus professors do not have this same right.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

For me, the most disturbing aspects of these comments are the far-too-many people who guess what they think might have happened (based on no evidence whatsoever) and then angrily attack MIT for overreacting to their totally imaginary scenario. It's astounding to me how statements about "reviewing detailed materials and "information about interactions between Lewin and other women online learners can be interpreted as "he called one overly-sensitive woman honey". If you believe that MIT would take such a drastic action against a faculty member, much less a senior faculty member of Lewin's stature, over something frivolous, you totally misunderstand who wields the power at a place like MIT.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Only in America :)

Eric Cigan about 9 years ago

I agree with #38 and #115 (and probably many others if I had the time to read them all). In this world where MOOCs are the vector by which universities can touch students worldwide, MIT needs to be conscious that its professors are de facto worldwide ambassadors as well as educators.

Educational content can be replaced, even improved upon, but MIT needs to be conscious of the messages it sends globally and what it stands for.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

As a graduate of MIT and a woman professor, I support MITs efforts to stamp out sexual harassment on campus in any form. However, I find it difficult to understand how the removal of recorded lectures by Professor Lewin protects anyone from sexual harassment. Indeed, the removal only protects MIT from association with Professor Lewin in the public eye. No one has claimed that the lectures themselves have any inappropriate content. To the contrary, millions have attested to their brilliant teaching techniques. Since the lecture videos can continue to be available without any possibility of students contacting Professor Lewin or, more to the point, his being able to contact any students, they pose no threat to students. Continuing their broadcast would neither indicate that MIT condones nor enables sexual harassment. It would, however, serve the many students at MIT itself and throughout the world who have come to rely on Professor Lewins clear articulation of the complexities of physics. Surely MIT can find a way to preserve these invaluable teaching tools. Punishment has already been meted out to Professor Lewin: he has lost his emeritus status and all connection with MIT. Now its time to consider what serves MIT best in the long run. Its commitment to providing outstanding opportunities for education to otherwise deprived populations worldwide is best served by restoring Professor Lewins lectures.

Amy about 9 years ago

#114 - no, relationships like that are not allowed and for good reason. In a relationship like that the prof holds all the cards and can damage or even sink the student's career, which leads to coercive situations. It also means that if a lab is just a prof's personal hunting ground, a woman trying to do her work has to wonder whether she's there because the prof thinks she's promising and is there to mentor her, or whether she's there to gratify him sexually. See the twitter hashtag #ripplesofdoubt to understand why that's a profoundly damaging thing.

Amy about 9 years ago

#103, please, let's not overreact. He's not the world's only physics teacher. He's not even MIT's only physics teacher. (As it happens there are a lot of terrific OCW teachers.)

They really are wonderful lectures -- I learned from them myself. And for serious teachers who actually know what they're talking about, there's a lot of good how-to in there. I honestly don't know what should be done with them. But on a STEM campus where 1/6 of the women report sexual assault, taking assault and harassment seriously, and demonstrating that the Institute isn't going to shrug at these things, is the right thing to do. Should they help him maintain his reputation, no, I don't think so. Do they need to be associated with him in any way, no.

Now: I wish I had the same confidence that less high-profile, less dangerous to reputation cases were handled the same way. If someone wants to tell me they are, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Darryl Williams about 9 years ago

Second verse, same as the first.

This isn't about banning physics. No one thinks they aren't useful lectures. Lewin simply isn't being allowed to represent MIT anymore. Being presented as an MIT professor is a privilege that requires more than just useful lecturing.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To #120

"I learned" "I dont' know" " I don't think so" "I wish" "I had" "I'd be interested"

These are self-referential comments, and platitudes.

In contrast #118 would sum up nicely the different sides of the issue.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

(Comment 1/2)

For all those whining that the world is being deprived of Dr. Lewin's work by MIT (no longer correct to refer to him as Prof. Lewin, as theyve stripped him of his title), apparently the entire catalogue of his lectures is available at two other websites, per the Chronicle of Higher Ed Wired Campus blog:

I'm baffled by the number of commenters who want to assume that:

Dr. Lewin's accuser is just being overly sensitive (versus Dr. Lewin engaged in appalling behavior)

Dr. Lewin's accuser misunderstood the context of his behavior given his advanced age and what used to be acceptable in his youth (versus Dr. Lewin's intent was clear - for all you know he sent naked selfies)

Dr. Lewin is just senile or has some other medical condition that is causing him to act inappropriately (versus he's behaved this way his whole life and just never got caught until now - something which a couple of commenters have said)

As a woman who was sexually assaulted at age 15 when I attended CTY (the JHU geek camp), I applaud the Institutes swift action on this harassment accusation. I worked at MIT for 10 years and saw how slowly the administration moved in dealing with a tenured professor who was bullying myself and other colleagues (this behavior went on for years before I joined the department and I dont believe I was the first or only person to report the behavior to the administration). Perhaps dealing with Dr. Lewin was less difficult because he was retired or perhaps the physics department took things more seriously than my last department but I have to assume that the evidence against Dr. Lewin was egregious enough for them to act within such a short period of time since the allegations were brought and for the consequences to be so severe.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

(Comment 2/2)

I wish more women would be as brave as this woman. In coming forward, you potentially stop other people falling victim before it happens. I was very fortunate that the administration at my CTY site took my accusations seriously and the boy was removed from campus within a few days after a thorough review by the site director, but I did face victim-shaming and disbelief from people who either believed his false account or felt that I was culpable in some way for bringing the attack on myself. People who believe that Dr. Lewin should be excused for his behavior on the basis of his age (either due to senility or being the product of his generation) are as bad as those people who say boys will be boys when boys are aggressive with girls and dont understand that no isnt a flirty way of saying yes.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

121- it isn't about banning physics for MIT, you're right, it's about Lewin not being allowed to represent MIT.

At the same time, it's telling all the kids who wanted to learn physics from the best online lectures perhaps of all time, that they no longer have that option, in order that Lewin no longer represents MIT. It's good for MIT, we don't want him representing us any longer, but it is an utterly selfish move on the part of the institute.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To 123/124:

That you were sexually assaulted at age 15 is terrible, and one must ensure that the girls of the new generation are part of a culture and society that actively prevent such situations, and protects them.

This being said MIT is bigger than that sole issue, for all important it is. MIT would atrophy to inconsequence if its policy was guided only by retribution.

#118 presents many sides of the issue. Also, per #76, the edX material is the result of a collective effort, involving teams of devoted MIT contributors, all working to better the world.

Reducing the edX effort to Dr. Lewin, and even further to his personal conduct is a mistake.

Per the many voices here, everyone condemns sexual violence, and believes that the MIT administration correctly took action to address the issue. Dr. Lewin is not part of MIT anymore. But taking the edX material hostage to Dr. Lewin's personal behavior is a mistake of vision and policy.

Bret about 9 years ago

For those who are interested in what sorts of things Lewin might have done, note that there were some quite inappropriate tweets captured by twitter:

For example, search for the sequence with tshelsea.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

At #112. I think you're absolutely right in your 3rd paragraph that there was a love/hate relationship there at MIT with Walter, having known him for a long time and seen him in action numerous times at different places with different people. He is brilliant as a lecturer and scientist and has done so much good for physics. Many people put up with him for this reason, but at some point, that ends. Everyone who knows him, knows he is extremely narcissistic, disrespectful to his peers and his personal life with women a mess. He loves controversy and making a spectacle out of himself whenever he can. This works great for his videos but not at the institute collaborating with others. These inappropriate emails were likely the straw that broke the camel's back for MIT and the only way to could get rid of him. There is no doubt he likely offended a powerful person at MIT at some point. I may not like him but do not enjoy his downfall either. I think it is sad that for somebody this intelligent, he lacked common sense with email and women. The EQ part is missing, always has been.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#126 - I don't agree that MIT's decision was guided by "retribution". I agree with #121 that this is about Dr. Lewin no longer being permitted to represent MIT. Only Dr. Lewin's edX material was removed, no one else's, so I don't see how that is taking edX material "hostage." As his work is still available elsewhere, I don't see MIT's decision as depriving anyone of his scientific genius. No one has destroyed his "art" as #26 implied.

I beg to differ that "MIT is bigger than a sole issue". MIT is part of the issue of sexual harassment and assault in higher ed, in STEM, in society. They can also be part of the solution by setting an example for other institutions on how to address situations like this.

Given my experience with the Institute's apparent failure to address the abusive professor in my last department I'm both surprised and impressed by their choices in Dr. Lewin's case. The professor who targeted me and my colleagues had behaved in that manner for many years (I was even warned about it in a roundabout way during my interview). I never saw any public consequences for him. I primarily saw the department handling it by telling us how we should behave differently towards him. He left the Institute (apparently) on his own terms quite a while after I brought my complaint and is now a tenured professor at another prestigious institution. It's hard for me to imagine they would have hired him had they known the extent of his behavior at MIT.

For months I was told the administration was handling it behind-the-scenes but it was very delicate due to the fact that he had tenure and that I needed to be patient. I never saw any changes or consequences - if anything his behavior got worse. In the end I left because it was so affecting my health and I had no confidence that the administration was actually handling it.

I'm glad to see that if in MIT's determination Dr. Lewin was so potentially detrimental to students that they've severed all ties with him. It's too bad they're not this bold in all cases of faculty misconduct.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#119 Amy, what you are saying is as true then as it is now. My point is that the faculty did nothing to intervene, even though it was common knowledge the affair was taking place. And yes, such affairs are extremely damaging to the educational environment.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Removing the material of Dr. Lewin from EdX and OpenCourseWare was only to make an scandal of this, MIT psychopatich management wants to punish him for expresing his own ideas openly and as World listen him more that to others they wanted to shut him up. Shame on you MIT. The sexual harassment case on him was an invention usually done in the for profit institutions with low academic level.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

MIT has in the past intimidated students into silence and let professors continue harassing them and others. If the risk for you is getting thrown out of a prestigious college, you might think twice about pressing charges.

On the other hand, an MITx student has very little to lose by exposing this. MIT had no choice but to make public this particular instance of harassment.

Stop giving MIT a pat on the back for throwing out a single harasser. When MIT stops telling students to forget harassment and rape, when MIT stops trying to use its position to keep students silent, then we can start applauding MIT for acting with a basic sense of human decency.

anonymous about 9 years ago

Harassment based on gender and sexual harassment are two very different things, not to be confused.

According to, MIT defines sexual harassment as: "Sexual harassment may take many forms. Sexual assault and requests for sexual favors that affect educational or employment decisions constitute sexual harassment. However, sexual harassment may also consist of unwanted physical contact, requests for sexual favors, visual displays of degrading sexual images, sexually suggestive conduct, or offensive remarks of a sexual nature."

I don't think we can make any assumptions about what happened except that it was some form of sexual harassment as described above.

And I really don't think women should just accept having to deal with sexual harassment because it's an inevitability.

Bret about 9 years ago

133 wrote: "I don't think we can make any assumptions about what happened except that it was some form of sexual harassment as described above."

Yeah, we can. Lewin's twitter logs (see #127) show that he clearly violated MIT policy.

133 wrote: "I really don't think women should just accept having to deal with sexual harassment because it's an inevitability."

That statement makes no sense to me. If "it's an inevitability," then women have no choice but "to deal with" it in some manner, no?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This is not tremendously surprising; I remember being quite stunned as an 18-year-old female undergraduate in Prof. Lewin's class (of hundreds) at being invited to have dinner at his home (where I met Ewa, his former graduate student and soon-to-be second wife). He was a charming, dynamic physicist at the top of his field and gave passionate lectures -- he and Ewa had a deep interest in modern art and aesthetics. It was an unusual experience, and I felt that I was in some way being interviewed (doubtless unsuitable!). So yes, that was an odd experience -- but just odd, not improper.

I can see how Prof. Lewin's sense of humor and cheerful attitude toward sexual topics (nude beaches, losing ones "physics virginity") could make some students uncomfortable -- but then again, Prof. Lewin's upbringing was in the Netherlands, and sexual topics -- and also the interaction between professors and students -- may be viewed quite differently there than they are in the United States of 2014. Also, he was in hiding as a boy during WW2, and I'm fairly sure that many social customs including interactions with one's students were quite different in the Netherlands in the immediate postwar years (that's where and when he attended University) than they are in the USA, today.

Taking his physics lectures off the internet seems like a ridiculous overreaction -- the man by all accounts can teach physics, and if his lectures help people learn who need never interact with him personally, why remove them? Shall we remove the work of everyone who was ever accused of making unwanted or improper advances to another person? Is the Institute trying to protect students, or trying to erase Prof. Lewin from history -- like chiseling the names of Akhenaten or Hatshepsut off of the monuments? This action punishes physics students around the world -- and since future student contact with Prof. Lewin was ostensibly the danger and his email addresses have already been deactivated, I can only wonder what purpose is now served by making this valuable educational resource unavailable.

Dina about 9 years ago

#125. selfish? maybe, at worst. Even so, we do not strive to educate 'by any means necessary'. We do not ignore consequences in the pursuit of simply the greatest total amount of knowledge. Moreover, the videos exist elsewhere, hosted by other people; they are not the be all and end all of learning physics; and MIT is still leaps and bounds beyond any other institution in providing free education. The level of vitriol in the other critical comments regarding this relatively minor aspect of the decision is clearly not supported by any real concern for the ability of the poor little children to learn physics. Unsurprisingly, people had learned it before they were online, and will continue to do so after. I made it through 8.012 and 8.022 just fine, and I can still watch the dubstep remix of his best lines video whenever I want. The harms are being greatly exaggerated by several here to make some unpleasant and indistinct point.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I spoke with Dr. Lewin about his life for over 3 hours on one occasion, in his office, several years ago. His passion for teaching and his deep care for students was so inspiring that I decided to become a teacher for several years, myself. It was very clear that he was becoming senile, but being alone with him, in his office (as a young female undergrad), I never felt threatened. I say this only as my individual isolated perspective; not connected with the allegations, which I do not question.

I originally come from a very rural town, and like some of the other commenters, his lectures were a major factor in what brought me to be a student at MIT. My school had no AP classes and not even a single physics class, and his videos were a huge door opener for me. I feel as though a large number of people who agree with MIT's decision to delete the videos say so from a position of privilege; they never truly needed the videos to succeed, like someone from a low socioeconomic standpoint, with limited educational opportunities would.

Although I feel Lewin certainly should be held accountable for his own actions, I question MITedX for giving him such open access to an online platform, to interact with students while representing MIT, when he was so clearly senile and at such a late stage of his career. I am a survivor of sexual assault myself, and I truly understand the importance of taking such instances seriously. But it also pains me how this could have been avoided from MIT's end (giving such an individual free reign, again: representing MIT, online), and then deciding to take a course of action the limits educational resources of future students.

I believe wholeheartedly that he cares deeply about education and students, and I suspect his poor behavior may be recent. It saddens me that publicly outcasting Lewin and denying future students incredible resources (Lewin's videos) was the most appropriate way for MIT to handle this, and it is unclear if MIT's decision came even before any criminal charges were pursued and his mental state was considered, from a legal standpoint.

Furthermore, it is one thing to tarnish a man's career and vilify him, but another to erase educational resources from students. What is MIT's concern: that he might further harass students in the comments section? That his presence in the videos affirms a culture of harassment? Like many of the other commenters, I see it akin to book burning, and I truly do not understand.

Jason about 9 years ago

He is 78 years old and accused of "Sexual Harassment" online! This is a medical problem if it is true. There is zero detail released on what he have done online. Why not release the level of assaulting language he have used if any?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

What's next MIT? How about disassociating from anyone convicted of a crime or accused of sexual harassment by divesting and disavowing ownership of any patents and intellectual property based on their work? Donate them to the ACLU, perhaps?

Oh, and please stop teaching works of Einstein or Schroedinger who were notorious womanizers. Omit derivatives of their work and work of any other fornicators, including Marie Curie.

You get the idea. Stripping Lewin's title was sufficient and the type of punishment Bill Cosby got for far more egregious claims.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To the posters who mentioned the twitter logs - it looks like the walter_lewin twitter account is no longer up. Anyone have screenshots?

Jake about 9 years ago

I feel I'm one of the victims of this incident. I have just finished 801 on my own. I am just about to start 802. Now all of a sudden, the lectures are gone. I've never had a good physics professor when I attended college. I've never had the opportunity to attend MIT. I have only recently came across edx. I was immediately fascinated by the courses put together by MIT. I was immediately impressed by how the professors turned the difficult concepts into something easier to follow. And all the experiments in the class were so thoughtfully designed. I felt like my curiosity were rekindled. It's a shame to see these great resources being removed from the public. The initiatives of OCW, edX are to bring quality education to public, making quality education accessible to those who due to various reasons don't have the privilege to attend MIT. Learning is fun. Learning is a life long journey. I sincerely plead to the administration at MIT. Please bring those course materials back. The public needs those great resources. Those resources were not developed by just one person -- they were developed by the community at MIT, for the sake of public and posterity. They are MIT's contribution to the society.

In the end, I wish MIT administration can find a better way to sever the school's dedication to eduction from any individual's mistake. We are all humans. Humans make mistakes. The important thing is, we learn from our mistakes. And we don't want to make another mistake to rectify the first mistake.

Best Regards!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Was Walter Lewin a modern-day Tiger Woods, using his celebrity status to flirt with women online? Were a disappointed flirt and envious, Neo-victorian administrators the reasons for his downfall? It's plausible to me. I managed to archive four instances of sexual harassment from his deleted Twitter account. In most instances, the flirting seems to have been initiated by the woman, and in at least a few instances the woman played along.

Did a retired 78 year old flirt have his brilliant career denied and his books burnt due to excessive clumsiness?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

The headline should be:

"Retired MIT professor Lewin ex-communicated and all his famous lectures pulled for clumsily flirting with students online."

Neo-Victorianism is farther along than I thought. I'm glad I'm getting out of this hell-hole soon into a freer world where flirting is legal.

isomorphismes about 9 years ago

OK, so ruin the OCW experience for everyone?

Why should someone who wants to understand Maxwell's Equations (me) be punished for Dr Lewin's sexual harassment of someone else?

Bret about 9 years ago


Someone took it down today. Via a google cache you can get some version of the main page ( ), but I haven't yet figured out how to get the cached "Tweets replies" page. Perhaps it wasn't cached.

I didn't think to take screen shots. I do have some quotes from his tweets but I don't feel comfortable posting them here because they look worse standalone than they do in the context of the twitter stream. Also, the beyond the pale tweets were to students who, ummm, aren't all sweetness and light, shall we say.

Sorry for promising new info and not being able to deliver after all.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It is sometimes necessary to separate the art from the artist.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

A eulogy for a tragedy.

I am not affiliated with MIT. I happen to live in the vicinity of Caltech. I guess I would be called a "self-learner." Isn't that a misnomer. We don't learn by ourselves. We don't learn just for ourselves. We learn with others, from others, for ourselves, for others, and because of others. And, we all learn a little differently about the so called things we find that matter. To know a lot is not the same as the ability or desire to teach a lot. Teaching must be an art. One may be inclined to minimize, specifically, Professor Lewin's presentation. Oh, were it so, what a world. Professor Lewin may not be the only teacher or lover of physics. Professor Lewin is a great teacher. He is probably one of the greatest teachers that, also we, out here, have had the privilege to learn with and share in his enthusiasm.

Thank-you to all of the great teachers. Whom, while one could name. Right now, (although, some have suggested "always") this is regards Professor Lewin.

Thank you all of MIT including the students and for all that have made and continue to make this possible. It may be possible to not know the positive affect you have had, and continue to have on others, out here. I think there is a chance that this world is a little lighter, is a little better place because of all of you.

How might we, out here, better show our appreciation to "you" M.I.T. and likewise, perhaps, Caltech, for their "outreach" programs.

You really have made a positive difference in my life, and might I say our lives.

By the way, last month, I added a background image of yellow daffodils on my computer desktop. Maxwell's Equations are quite beautiful.

...but, what is in a name, after all.

nick L. Theodorou about 9 years ago

In times like this I'm usually the one to sit back and others do the protesting but listen up MIT.

Disclose the FULL details of the incident and then let the people decide if we can tolerate to still learn Physics from this man.

Did anyone here see the Rainbow lecture This guy has inspired 100s of thousands of students.

I may regret saying this but ONLINE sexual harassment can't be that bad. No one died, no one got physically or mentally abused.

So MIT: You can either Disclose, put the videos back up, or I'm personally gonna visit Walter and we're gonna record the whole thing again...

Whoever's with me, i'll see you on twitter #walterlewin

Anonymous about 9 years ago


Anonymous about 9 years ago

For those curious, MIT's policy on sexual harassment...

I honestly can't take this that seriously, especially given MIT's previously set low bar on Title IX issues, a la

Without knowing specifically what it is alleged that Lewin did, and with the context of the BC murals paintover, I can only assume it is as frivolous as a prior commenter noted with "Honey".

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I do hope MIT locates all pictures of Prof Lewin in all of its archives, and any verbal mention of him in any of its documents, and removes them all.

Imagine how a young female student might be triggered if she were to encounter his name or image, and were to realize that he said something highly inappropriate online of a sexual nature.

She might have been the next Isaac Newton, or the next Gauss. Instead she will have to resign her damaged self to being a counselor for survivors of sexual harrassment, with the low pay and status such a role entails in our patriarchal society.

And it happens so often and almost everywhere.

This is the precise reason why women so rarely achieve the level of excellence that men do in STEM subjects.

Oh, the humanity!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Some questions:

1. Did the student seek him out, or did he seek out the student?

2. Was Dr. Lewin the student's "teacher" in any official capacity?

3. Did Dr. Lewin act as if he was a "teacher" in any official capacity?

4. If not, are MIT professors allowed to form sexual relationships with online learners they do not supervise in an official capacity?

5. What was Dr. Lewin's intention when he flirted with the student?

Anonymous about 9 years ago


your suggestion is quite ridiculous, how can just removing Walter from the MIT archives be sufficient? Suppose the next female Euler grows up near his house, then after witnessing Walter's face she might be discouraged from her scientific pursuits and instead be content with more mundane tasks such as a Victoria Secret Model.

In fact We'd better send him to jail and torch his house and all his belongings - but no, then he will be exposed to too many african americans who are unfairly sent to jail due to police brutality. Having them interact with Walter will destroy these young promising african american lives, so that they can never reach their full potential. #africanamericanlivesmatter

Given the gravitas of the crime that Walter committed, I can only conclude that we should probably send Walter to the midst of the Chinese or the North Koreans. That's because us SJW dislike them - they are not even real people anyways.

O the humanity indeed.

Luc V. O. from Belgium about 9 years ago

Walter, met Luc V. O. from Belgium

Als je dit leest, in nood kent men zijn vrienden.

Ik vermoed dat men van een mug een olifant heeft gemaakt.

Men beseft het pas als het te laat is, dat iedereen die naar u lacht je vrienden niet zijn.

De gevolgen voor u zijn schandalig buiten proportie.

Is dit de beloning als men zijn ganse leven heeft inzet voor de wetenschap ?



Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am enraged that they have decided to take down his videos. I am from Pakistan and I was very angry when they banned the youtube for one video. Looks like MIT is not at all different from people in my country.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#155- You hit the nail on the head. This was a grossly uncivilized act.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Walter Lewin was accused, tried and convicted in a Kangaroo court which reminds one of North Korea, Stalinist Russia and

Hitler Germany. I'm sure MIT is proud of its scapegoat tactics.

The Nazis were.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#98. The number of commandments is neither 7 nor 10. It appears you'd like to make it 10.

Ask and ye shall receive:

8. A Z should never be held accountable for their actions. (Z refers to a member of a certain category of people, such as certain minorities and, often, people without a Y chromosome.)

9. Z are morally perfect. [1]

10. Any moral decadence in Z is the fault of the less morally decadent members of not-Z.

There is no shortage of examples:

(a) Recently two members of Z squirted lighter fluid up a white girl's nose and set her aflame, killing her. This was not mostly unreported by the press. But when a decadent member of Z attacks a policeman and tries to grab his gun, well, the rest is history.

(b) Similarly, there have been several recent gang rapes of campus women by members of Z (resulting in criminal convictions) that have been mostly unreported by the press. However, when a woman fabricates [2] a story about members of not-Z gang-raping her, it becomes a top story for weeks and causes a campus to partially shut down for months.

I hope the 10 commandments I gave were not too redundant. There are many more.

It is quite possible Lewin's crime was clumsy flirting, not abusive manipulation.

-94, 96.

[1] Notice the contradiction with (8) and the overwhelming bulk of ancient wisdom.


Anonymous about 9 years ago

Typo This was not mostly unreported by the press. - This was mostly unreported by the press.

Bret about 9 years ago

This comment is to give everybody here an idea of the sorts of things Lewin was doing.

As mentioned above, Lewin's twitter account mysteriously disappeared in the last 24 hours. I saw it before it disappeared and I will piece together one of a few inappropriate (in my opinion) sequences.

The sequence is between Lewin, tshelsea ( ), and VeeNasrallah ( ). Some of it (as noted below) is only from memory:

[1]Chelsea. tshelsea - 11 Jun 2013

If Walter Lewin doesn't open a water company called Wally Walter's Water then what's the point.

[2]From memory, Lewin tweets something like (to tshelsea, VeeNasrallah): That's a good idea, will you be my CEO.

[3]The Head Captain. VeeNasrallah 16 Jun 2013

walter_lewin tshelsea chelsea did walter lewin just tweet us.

[4]From memory, some back forth banter, discussing payment with Lewin tweeting to the effect that she would like the payment a lot.

[5]The sequence is capped off with Lewin tweeting, "I will do my part, queefing is yours."

So pretty bad. Note that this is only one sequence in twitter (though this one was the worst in my opinion) and who knows what happened via email, etc. [1] and [3] above can (still) be found on the women's twitter pages, [2] and [4] are from memory before Lewin's account was deleted, and [5] is an exact quote though I don't have a screen shot or date.

Anonymous about 9 years ago


I managed to archive Lewin's exact quotes. They were:

[2] "tshelsea May I hire you as the CEO?"

[3] "tshelsea You will get paid a way that will broaden your horizons and enrich your life. You life will never be the same."

[4] "tshelsea I will do my part, queefing is yours."

The jokes are of course inappropriate, though, call me sick-minded, but I laughed.

For context: I do remember this being the worst Tweets as well. Most of his Tweets were him just nicely offering to sign books and so on.

The Tech is free to delete this comment if it wishes. The tweets were public and will come out eventually.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

What a pervert #160 is. SAVING and memorizing tweets?

Is this a member of the so called "objective"panel that crucified PROFESSOR EMERITUS LEWIN? Who ever it is, they clearly ENJOY searching and reading DAY AND NIGHT all the pornography they can find.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Yes, on second thought #160 and #161 should probably be deleted. Obscenity is inappropriate for the comments section.

Chewy Shaw '13 about 9 years ago

I am extremely proud to call MIT my school right now!

Chewy Shaw '13 about 9 years ago

To clarify, I am proud of these actions taken by the administration (vs being proud of this thread of comments).

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#79 claims to be the son of "a renowned Dutch astrophysicist", however it makes no sense that a person so distantly connected to Lewin would write such a rejoicing/vengeful message.

The tone, structure, and vocabulary of #79 look more like Lewin's ex-wife. Same for #101 and #128. :)

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This is an outrage. And people are defending Lewin and want to keep his videos up!

By the way, anyone who knows about Richard Feynman knows he was a sexist and objectified female students ... we need to get his books out of all university libraries, and stop teaching QED in physics programs. Protest by refusing to use Feynman diagrams.

Who's with me!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Prof Lewin can't sexually harass students in archived courses. It is craziness. Put back his lectures.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#80, that's a very rational and thoughtful response. I appreciate the level-headedness with which you gauge the severity of internet communications.

Poster 1 about 9 years ago

After seeing the tweets, I'd say not only put back the videos, but reinstate PROFESSOR Lewin and give him a Nobel for MOOCs! Indeed, this is not how you treat a 78 year-old man (or woman for that matter) who has dedicated their entire life to science and public education. My only hope is that this is really all some brilliant society hack on the part of MIT to bring light to the extreme political correctness and unquestioning trust in authority and hearsay found in today's world, all of which history has shown lead to the downfall of a free and intelligent society of individuals.

Have I somehow reached the disbelief and bargaining stages of grief? If this is not just some elaborate joke, both we and MIT are doomed. Who is John Galt?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Why are professors more afraid of being caught flirting with students, than they are of spouting Communist propaganda?

Nationwide Communists and (former?) terrorists join faculties of various colleges, while an elderly man is punished for suggestive e-mails?

Alan about 9 years ago

[... continued from previous post ...]

So here we are, some twenty years later, and it seems at least possible that things at MIT have not changed at all. Sexual harassment clearly has no place at the Institute (or anywhere else, for that matter), and I have to presume that Prof. Fisher's investigation was as thorough and fair as MIT's press release implies. Surely the Institute would not have taken such action lightly. But with no information as to the specifics of exactly what the investigation discovered, it's impossible to say: there's this story in The Tech, and the News Office pointed me to the press release, but that's it. And my own experience with the misguided political correctness that surrounds such issues at MIT makes me highly skeptical of the Institute's actions regarding Dr. Lewin in this case.

What's not in question, to me, are the numerous compelling comments above pointing out the idiocy of MIT's actions here. Strip Dr. Lewin of his title? Absolutely. Make sure he never teaches another class? No problem. But attempting to erase any trace of his activities at MIT--to "unperson" him, as someone put it--is pointless, counterproductive, and frankly idiotic. William Shockley was a raging anti-Semite; James Watson was a proponent of eugenics. Should we discard our transistor-laden electronics and renounce our DNA?

Truly a sad day all around.

-Alan R.

[1] The image in question was a single grainy BW shot from a Playboy pictorial. Others in the set included such flagrantly offensive images as nudes by Renoir and Manet. In retrospect, I should have asked the powers-that-be to articulate the difference between them, and if they were familiar with such scandals as, say, the one that accompanied the exhibition of Manet's Olympia. But I was too rattled to think of it at the time.

Alan about 9 years ago

I am an alum (SB '92, VI-1) and was extremely dismayed to read this news, particularly because I have some (admittedly minor) firsthand experience with this.

About a month before my thesis was due, I was called without warning into the office of an IT guy in the Athena cluster on the top floor of the student center. He told me that a woman had complained about the background image I had on my terminal window[1], which she had claimed was offensive and constituted harassment. I was required to go speak with someone in the Dean's office, during which conversation I was told in no uncertain terms that I could either remove that image (and any others "like it," whatever that meant), or I would be suspended and not allowed to graduate. The dean also made it clear that any other complaints even vaguely related to this one would also result in my suspension or even expulsion.

Under the circumstances, I felt like I had no choice; I meekly removed the image from my login config, finished up my thesis, and graduated.

I've thought of that incident numerous times in the twenty-plus years since. My biggest regret is that I didn't take a stand; if I had it to do over again, I certainly would have. (If nothing else, I would have called up Playboy's legal department and asked for help. They've had decades of experience in dealing with situations like this, whereas I just felt like a deer in the headlights.) Because of where I'd been sitting in the cluster that day (in a corner, at the end of an aisle of workstations), the complainant had had to go well out of her way to see my desktop (she was not sitting next to me, and the screen was not visible from anywhere but directly in front of it). In the conversations I was forced to have in the days that followed, it became abundantly clear that this person had made a habit of going around and looking for things to be offended by. (There were plenty of things, and people and ideas, I found to be offensive while I was there--including pervasive, hypersensitive political correctness exactly along these lines. But I managed, because I understood that there is no requirement that everything and everyone around you must be non-offensive to you. Apparently, this opinion was not shared by others.)

[... continued in next post ...]

David Friedman about 9 years ago

As various people have pointed out, we do not know what Lewin was accused of doing or did. But we do know that the charge was "online harassment." You can't rape someone over the internet. You can't even touch someone. The most you can do is say things to someone that that person doesn't want said. Given that, MIT's response seems wildly out of proportion.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Misconduct should be punished of irrespective of the status of the offender. But How logical it is to take down one's previous achievements of while life just for a silly common human error. I am not trying to support the offense, but my point is if the offense has been occurred he could be punished in a logical way. How the world/that woman will be benefited if a source of incredible knowledge is burnt of. What is the wrong with the lectures he has given? For one of his bad behavior why we are devaluing his hundreds good things. It is justice ?

Anonymous about 9 years ago


A new host has been found for Prof. Lewin's

lectures which have been indefinitely removed

by MIT.

iguana1677 about 9 years ago

I suspect that Walter crossed the line in a very serious way. But he will be missed. I find the whole thing very sad.

intlFriend about 9 years ago

This is ridiculous. As a non-U.S. citizen who has taken his courses online, I feel that he is just a victim of the U.S. styled political correctness. I don't get why calling someone "honey" is a form of sexual harassment at all. I hate these stupid over-sensitive bitches and it's hilarious that the crowd in the U.S. supports these idiots.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Roman Polanski: Rapes a 13 year old girl in the middle of his career; continues making movies in Europe.

Dr. Lewin: Retires and tells a couple dirty jokes online as 78 year man; is disowned by academia and has his work purged.

MIT is a slave to sheltered middle class women.

Nandini about 9 years ago

I am sad, shocked, and annoyed. I only have one request - Please bring back his lectures.

Ruud Mooijman about 9 years ago

Dear Workers at the MIT,

I red in a Dutch newspaper that you have removed the lecture-video's of Walter Lewin at YouTube because of an investment of complaints of sexual harassment.

I've checked this and I am pleased that I found the lectures and I hope that you don't remove them.

I reject his sexual harassment but to remove his scientific work, for me its equal to book burning and "entartete" art -in this case "entartete" science- in those dark brown days of the 20-st century.

yours sincerely,

Ruud Mooijman

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It is distressing to see how this discussion has surfaced so much hatred and acrimony toward women: #179 sheltered middle class women and #178 I hate these stupid over-sensitive bitches are only the latest in a number of such statements posted here that indicate how much animosity still exists toward women, professional women in particular.

What huge assumptions are being made on the basis of no factual knowledge! Who knows the class status of the woman who lodged the complaint? Why assume that the offense was so mild that only someone over-sensitive would be hurt by it? Why imagine that Lewin has been punished for calling someone honey or making off-color jokes?

Lets get some facts straight about the case at hand: all the public knows is that an MIT investigation into the complaint of a woman who took on-line course with Lewin concluded that he had violated the institutes code on sexual harassment. The public may speculate on what actions by Lewin led to that conclusion; it doesnt know what those actions were.

However, since the violation has been identified as something that occurred on-line, the public does know that the offending act or acts were verbal and/or visual, and not physical. It also knows that the acts cannot continue if communication between Lewin and students is shut down.

MITs decision to stop Lewin from teaching and from using his MIT email are logical responses to that situation. No student need fear on-line sexual harassment from Lewin again.

But who benefits from removing his much-lauded lectures from MITs website? No one. However egregious the mans offense, the quality of the lectures remains undisputed. Making them available, but without any means of communication between Lewin and viewers, is appropriate and fair.

As to those who think charges of sexual harassment are trivial, over-reactive, or the result of being politically correct, let it happen to your girlfriend, wife, daughter, or sister and then see how it feels knowing that someone in power used her that way.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

MIT is attempting to snuff out Prof. Lewin from the world.

Anyone with an MIT address cannot contact him. If you already know his current email address, you can probably reach him from

your private email. They have taken away Prof. Lewin's right to free speech and now they are taking yours.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#182. You say-- "It is distressing to see how this discussion has surfaced so much hatred and acrimony toward women:"

Indeed. We are violating the first commandment (from #97, "It is hate speech to criticize a woman"). I see this is politically incorrect and empathize with the emotional distress the various comments have caused. But maybe, is it scientifically possible, that sometimes, somewhere, there are women who are a little oversensitive and lie sometimes, in addition to the many strong, sensible women we have all worked with? Is it possible? Or, perhaps, you are right, and it is too distressing to consider that there might be a few oversensitive people who cry "Wolf!" and feel vindicated when their emotional "trauma" results in severe punishment.


You say-- "As to those who think charges of sexual harassment are trivial, over-reactive, or the result of being politically correct, let it happen to your girlfriend, wife, daughter, or sister and then see how it feels"

My girlfriend was more distressed when I forgot to reply to one of her texts than when some clumsy guy "sexually harassed" her by flirting inappropriately. She even went to seek professional help after the unanswered text (not kidding!)-- thankfully she is more mature and has thicker skin now!

Should we ex-communicate and purge people who--

(a) forget to answer one of their girlfriend's texts

(b) break-up with their girlfriend in an abrupt way

(c) kiss their girlfriend when she's not in the mood, and get rejected

After all, these (especially b!) can cause much more emotional pain than sexual harassment. (c) is even classified as "sexual assault" which is much worse than verbal harassment.

Should clumsy flirting, a dirty joke and an offended women be able to ruin a man's life work? Those who think so (which includes the majority of today's American academia) have no balls, and I have little respect for their uncivilized morality.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

(cont'd from #184) How about instead of lining the pocketbooks of nanny campus administrators we each pay $50k/year for, we shift the focus to learning how to behave fairly and respectfully to each other? Should college be about learning how to act with others, or should it be about learning how to whine to campus administrators when someone offends you? Yes, the authorities should punish egregious crimes like theft, assault, rape (not "I regret hooking up with him" rape, but actual rape) and murder, but a micro-aggression by an apologetic, well-intentioned person should be forgivable. Why should clumsy online comments by a retired professor be classified as "harassment" and given the most severe punishment possible? The book-burning is a disgrace.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Just because Prof. Lewin violated MIT's policy on sexual harassment doesn't necessarily mean that he violated any criminal laws. Why would this victim not press charges if Prof. Lewin "broke the law"? Stipping a professor of his emeritus status and pension is vindication? Sometimes university policies are made stricter to avoid potential litigation against the university and its employees. Perhaps Prof. Lewin committed a mere indiscretion. We just don't know without specific details. You cannot pass judgment on someone because of the punishment that MIT has dealt due to the violation of its own policies. We require the facts of the crime or indiscretion.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#186-- Most likely Lewin flirted clumsily and told some dirty jokes. I don't think our criminal laws have degenerated far enough that this is currently illegal.

I absolutely agree that we require the facts of the crime, given the extreme punishment. The story will come out. Surely, Prof. Lewin is strategizing his next move.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

However, it does occur to me that absurd (Title IX, etc?) federal regulations on colleges would put MIT in a dangerous situation if it didn't act in the politically correct manner.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#187 - Right, everything is "probably" and "most likely." Once the facts are revealed, we can judge if the "extreme punishment" is justified. Unless the details show this is a mere indiscretion, the only thing Prof. Lewin will be strategizing is what to do with the rest of his retirement and his funeral plans. Or maybe CalTech will take him or he can go to Hollywood. The damage to his reputation is done regardless or whether he is innocent or guilty. The seed of doubt has been planted.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

[[ Cynical analysis of this weirdness: Let W = campus administrators. Let X = immature women. Let Y = weak men. Let Z = normal people, who learn physics and have monogamous relationships. X get offended by micro-aggressions. W see an opportunity for job growth by punishing harassment more severely. Y join in, since they may as well supplicate. Now the size of X grows as more things become offensive, and W and Y grow concurrently. Effectively, Z becomes cannibalized by X. It's an interesting dynamic, and the end result is less learning physics, and more getting offended. Losers win, by reducing the number of hardworking, productive people (that is, Z) and getting people angry and outraged by clumsy flirting-- it's very sneaky, and I applaud X and Z for their political intelligence! ]]

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Speaking of political intelligence, I find it interesting that MIT announced the Lewin punishment on the same day that Gruber testified before congress.

Bret about 9 years ago

182 wrote: "...statements posted here that indicate how much animosity still exists toward women..."

You've mis-described the trend. Circumstances like these, where an icon of physics and science is severely punished because of women, INCREASES animosity towards women. It's not that animosity "still exists," rather that animosity is increasing and will continue to increase as long as things like this continue to happen.

Oh sure, because of the example made of Lewin, other professors and folks in academia will (hopefully) be more careful in their online communications making the environment "safer" for women. But it only exacerbates the simmering animosity.

For example, do you think this episode will make people want to hire women for jobs in STEM? Outside of academia, I assure you that it won't.

And hopefully, the simmering animosity won't one day boil over and scald us all.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Very true. In fact Gruber has not been mentioned at all

on ANY MIT websites. What's up with that? Perhaps

the MIT PR people were given different instructions about

him. Ah, yes, MIT gets more money from the Feds because

they showed that they could somehow produce harassment

charges against a "star." We all know its politics and sex

in a newspaper will sell, lies about the economy don't.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

We rely on the standards MIT upholds to create a mini-universe where students can thrive and excel equally. It is a world filled with brilliant professors, both women and men, who manage to teach, research, and interact with students in a professional way. It is not enough to be brilliant and lovable. There are standards of character and behavior at ALL learning institutions. How could MIT overlook this?

No one except those involved with the investigation have the actual facts of the case. We are forced to trust MIT's handling of this case, which cannot have been easy. There could be no happy ending to this.

Students deserve to be treated respectfully. Should Lewin, a mega rock-star of the teaching world, not be held to the same standards as his peers? That would be unethical, and a slap in the face of every other professor at MIT...the rest of the faculty that manages to be brilliant AND behave appropriately.

The entire case has been a nightmare for MIT, where Lewin has much loved and respected. Lewin is not the victim here.

The true story is that Walter Lewin is being held accountable to MIT standards. MIT had no choice but to remove his teaching work.

Walter Lewin has been the architect of his own downfall.

MIT_86 about 9 years ago

Lewin, like Watson, just became an Unperson.

Happy now?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#194 said: "Walter Lewin has been the architect of his own downfall."

Hear, hear!

#184 - Yes, some women may be oversensitive and some women may lie but they are not the majority. The fact that in cases like this the default is to assume that accusers are being oversensitive or lying instead of to assume that the situation was serious and they are telling the truth gets very tiresome and is a way of telling women that we can't be trusted or taken seriously. We're seeing that with Cosby's 25 accusers.

Salon had the number at 25 though Wikipedia cites a Daily Beast article that puts the number at 26.


You are trivializing sexual harassment by bringing up your relationship issues. I have to imagine that if your girlfriend was at the point where she felt she needed professional help it was likely about far more than one unanswered text message. Though if her only issue is with overreaction you can't extrapolate that just because your girlfriend overreacts, all women overreact.

- 123, 124, 129

Former MIT staff 1998-2004; 2007-2010

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#196. I wouldn't go so far as to say I disagree with your comment. I'll note a few things:

(1) I do not mean "relationship issues" are as bad as "sexual harassment," so let me make a better argument:

(a) I think relationships get rocky from time to time (mine did, for a brief period), so I don't think it should be illegal for emotional pain to occur in a relationship.

(b) I think flirting can be clumsy from time to time, so I don't think that emotional pain caused by clumsy flirting should be illegal.

(c) Although I think everyone should be comfortable in a classroom, broad sexual harassment policies that apply EVERYWHERE (e.g. online e-mails by a retired professor) seem to make clumsy flirting potentially illegal, so they worry me. In particular, I'm worried about extremely severe punishments for sexual harassment.

(2) On some women sometimes overreacting a little,

(a) I think it's just that people are noticing patterns [1].

(b) Indeed, one should not make an accuser uncomfortable by assuming she's overreacting. For example: when a female friend of mine experienced a mild incident of unwanted flirting in a private setting, I absolutely did not tell her she was overreacting or that she had put herself in a risky situation (even though they might have been technically true in that instance). Instead, I comforted her until she felt well again and let her talk herself into a healthier state.

(c) I agree that one should try not to say "women overreact" because of (b). Words can sting, and one must be careful with them, but, as an anonymous commenter, rude oversimplification is tempting.

(3) On Cosby, Ha! No time for me to address that mess.

[1] For example, on the issue of drink spiking hysteria, here's a quote from

The study took in 101 people who were taken to two Perth hospitals as suspected victims of drink spiking over 19 months. "We did not identify a single case where a sedative drug was likely to have been illegally placed in a drink," Dr Little said.

#195. Both victims to politican correctness. -184

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Let those who want the lectures expunged from MIT answer the following questions: would you want all Feynmans lectures erased if you found out he had committed some act of any kind that you consider offensive? Do we burn Ezra Pounds poetry because he was an anti-Semite? By some accounts, Gauguin was an adulterous, racist child-molester and Caravaggio was a murderer, yet both are universally recognized as having altered the course of Western art history. So should their works be removed from the walls of museums and churches? Are the museums and churches that keep their works displayed condoning adultery and murder? Are the reputations of those museums and churches harmed by displaying their art?

Sexual harassment should always be deplored and punished; but the punishment should fit the crime and in this case the punishment of deleting inoffensive lectures is unreasonable.

Mark about 9 years ago

MIT did more harm than Lewin.

I think that is the outrage here - loss of educational materials that hundreds had collaboratively produced. Discounting of anything Lewin might have done is the result of a nanometer scale hurdle MIT set for declaring something sexual harassment. Setting such a low bar was another failure of MIT administration, harming MIT and its community in cases like this, and potential lawsuits. I hope the administration learns from this and takes corrective action.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am disappointed, but not at all surprised, to hear about MIT's actions against Walter Lewin. I worked closely with him for a number of years. He is immensely brilliant, but also an insufferable perfectionist and pathologically narcissistic. He could be charming while addressing an audience, but in other situations, he could be rude and insulting and inappropriate. He had no filters.

Lewin's lecture videos from the 1980s had distribution to other universities and cable long before video on the internet was well established. Lewin remarked more than once that a woman in Washington state propositioned him after seeing his video on cable.

On another occasion, a woman grad student told me that he made inappropriate remarks to her at a dinner he was hosting at his home, and did it in front of her husband who was also a guest.

The last time I saw Lewin was probably the last time he was teaching on campus. He did a series of lectures during the summer of 2012. When I showed up at 6-120 before one of his talks, he was loudly barking orders and insults to the assistant who was setting up one of his demos. The demo wasn't working right and the time before the lecture was running out. Lewin was embarrassingly rude to this person in front of everybody in the room.

The lecture came off without a hitch. Lewin hit the button on the demo, and everything came off without a hitch. The audience cheered and Lewin remarked that "that is the way physics works."

At the end of the lecture, I walked over to say hello. Although I had worked with him over three decades and always on good terms with him, he did not return my greeting. That is the last time I saw him on campus.

I think it is entirely appropriate for MIT to sever associations with Lewin. MIT has no obligation to continue to disseminate the videos. This is not a book burning. If you want the videos, there are other places to find them. I feel that MIT has made the right choice.

MIT staff (ret.) 1983 - 2013

Dr. Don R. Mueller about 9 years ago

Well, then students of all ages should watch my physical science videos:

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#200:"This is not a book burning. If you want the videos, there are other places to find them."

Are they complete and in the proper order? There are plenty of helpful lectures and videos scattered on youtube and the internet. The problem is that usually many lectures are missing; it's a hodgepodge.

Also, what happens to the other course material? There is also online text and tutorials, problem sets, and exams...It was all a cohesive unit.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#200 is describing 99 of the MIT male faculty.

The MIT administration wants to take down someone more important than themselves. They think they finally got a name

and are happy to brag about it to the world when they should

really be ashamed.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#200 Clumsiness is no reason to ex-communicate a professor. At least give the man a stern warning.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Everyone who knows him isn't surprised and thinks he had it coming. Son of a Dutch astrophysicist knows much much more than anybody else commenting on here. The general tenor of these comments is very depressing.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

to #'s 160 and 161: I know Prof. Lewin well and the so-called tweets from "your memory and archives" are complete fabrications. After speaking with him, I learned that he had no clue what queefing is (and neither do I for that matter) therefore it's impossible he used it.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#206: I am not the same person as #160 and #161, but I read the same quotes on Lewin's twitter page that they mentioned.

Could someone have hacked his twitter account?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Hacking can never be excluded #207; he has been hacked before.

One thing is for certain: he could not have written those words.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

(Comment 1 of 2)

#200 #205 Thank you both for your comments.

#184/197 - Why assume that what occurred between Dr. Lewin and these students fell into the category of "clumsy flirting"? None of us knows what Dr. Lewin did to generate MIT's response. For all we know he could have been sending photos of his privates. (He certainly wouldn't be the first man of renown to do so and get caught out later.)

Even if we were talking about misdirected flirting there is a context where such behavior is not appropriate. If you're clumsily flirting with your next-door neighbor that's one thing but for a faculty person (retired or not) to do so with a student (whether enrolled at MIT or not) is another matter. It is never appropriate for people in power to flirt with people who are subordinate to them. Yes, it happens and yes, sometimes the folks on the receiving end don't mind but sometimes theyre just too polite or afraid to say they mind. It's not the appropriate setting. I didn't appreciate it when my former massage/physical therapist hit on me nor when the oral surgeon who removed my wisdom teeth when I was 19 felt comfortable putting his hand on my thigh though I never told either how inappropriate I found their behavior. I simply quit going to see the massage/physical therapist (who was in private practice so had no boss I could report him to) and my mom wouldnt support me doing anything about the oral surgeon (citing my too sexy leggings long sweater outfit) so I couldnt do anything about that. Friends have done these things too and sometimes it's awkward and unwanted but it's a completely different context without the imbalanced power dynamic. Sometimes you say something and sometimes you just avoid them.

While people in power are often on the receiving end of unwanted attention from crazed fans many also abuse their power and fame by taking advantage of fans either in assuming their attentions will be welcomed or even knowing they are not welcome, assuming that their victims won't speak out against them. If #205 is correct then it just means that Dr. Lewin either hasn't been caught before or has simply never had to face such public consequences before. #204 assumes that Dr. Lewin was not warned about his behavior but we dont know that.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

(Comment 2 of 2)

Also, to all the folks who refer to these allegations as unproven, we dont know that either. We dont know what evidence MIT had nor whether Dr. Lewin may have admitted to his behavior. All we know is that MIT took it seriously enough to take drastic steps. I think anyone believing that MIT would risk a lawsuit over him calling a student "honey" is living in some sort of conspiratorial fantasyland. To me the seriousness of the consequences speaks to the seriousness of the alleged behavior and a possible history of misconduct.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209

Former MIT staff 1998-2004; 2007-2010

Bret about 9 years ago

206 wrote: " tweets from "your memory and archives" are complete fabrications..."

Uh huh. And the tweets from the twitter pages of tshelsea and VeeNasrallah, in the same time frame, which are still there, and which just happen to interleave with what many of us saw on what we believe to have been Lewin's twitter feed, are also hacks and/or fabrications?

Anything's possible, but no, I don't believe those tweets were hacks/fabrications. As in who am I gonna believe, you or my "lyin'" eyes?

Bret about 9 years ago

206 wrote: "After speaking with him [Lewin]..."

Since you spoke with him, I'm sure you can enlighten us all with what MIT claims that he did do.

We're all waiting with bated breath.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#211:"Uh huh. And the tweets from the twitter pages of tshelsea and VeeNasrallah, in the same time frame, which are still there, and which just happen to interleave with what many of us saw on what we believe to have been Lewin's twitter feed, are also hacks and/or fabrications? "

If someone hacked into Lewin's twitter account, they could start interacting with others as if they were Lewin. It's not like they just hacked the display on the web page. So you would expect a record of Lewin's hacked words on others' twitter pages to remain.

Dave about 9 years ago

I hope that the accusations against Professor Lewin are not true. If the accusations are indeed true, then he deserves to be fired, but I wish that his lectures and the supplemental material from 8.01-8.03 were not removed. For those who haven't had a chance to watch any of these videos, I'm sure they will be re-posted all over the internet, however. Fortunately there are other excellent physics courses available online for free, such as Professor Shankar's physics lecture videos. He recently published a book for his Physics 1 course.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#202 - Googling "Walter Lewin video" turns up five sites that have extensive collections of Lewin's videos. Since the course videos fall under a Creative Commons license and are not copyrighted to MIT, anyone can collect them and redistribute them. The videos are even on MIT Video's site at Even if MIT stops hosting them, they will most likely persist until the end of the internet. All of the OCW course material is licensed under CC. Anyone can collect and redistribute it.

#203: I don't think it is fair to lump 99 of male MIT faculty with my accounts of Lewin. Some of them are certainly egocentric and some may be lacking social graces, but to generalize and say "most" is wrong.

I also don't believe the conspiratorial theory that I've seen repeated often in this discussion, that the administration was looking to take someone down, preferably someone of perceived high status. If anything, having to take action draws more negative attention than positive. Lewin represented a lot of positive aspects of MIT, so it is painful to think that he would do something deserving of this. I seriously doubt that anyone in the administration was proud about having to take action. This is grim business. There is nothing for anyone to celebrate.

#204: I doubt that this action was taken due to simple "clumsiness." Based on the actions against him, whatever he did must have transcended simple clumsiness.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To #205:

I actually thought it was the DAUGHTER of a Dutch astrophysicist...not the SON.

We have to imagine the gender when it's not apparent, but how very interesting!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Finally, #210, is making sense. At #166, No, I am not his ex-wife, but the offspring of a renowned Dutch scientist who has worked with Walter, who is Dutch. Walter often visited the Netherlands to work with my father, so I am definitely not far removed. To the contrary, ever since I was a child, I've seen him numerous times at social events, at the Dutch Institute and at international conferences. Sadly, wherever Walter went, major conflicts with other scientists and issues with women soon followed. He was downright nasty and very disrespectful to anyone who did not agree with him on any subject. When another scientist would present an exciting new discovery, he would immediately start discrediting it and character assassinate the fellow scientist...This was truly horrible to witness. This happened often and Walter sadly made many enemies this way. I imagine he did similar things at MIT to his peers. He also had a history of relationships with much younger students. We saw it, he was warned about it, but never listened. This online harassment issue would never have a stripped him of his professor emeritus title if there had not been a history...which did exist. MIT does not punish someone this harshly after 44 years, especially given his enormous popularity as a brilliant educator. If it was an isolated incident, he would have likely been asked to no longer interact with students and the matter would have been settled quietly. We are sad. We are not rejoicing. We are upset that Walter did himself in this way. Some may find what I say difficult to accept, but is the reality I know and that of the many scientists who never want to speak to him again. Nobody is happy about this, but the truth is, Walter made too many enemies. You cannot mistreat others for decades no matter how brilliant you are. The universe will eventually catch up with you. Also, he's not senile. I found a message board from six months ago where he very lucidly answered many physics questions. BTW, I love his videos too and it's sad they were removed. His charismatic persona as a brilliant educator was sadly very different than the Walter you all love.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

# 216. Have a great times guessing my gender, as if it matters. Please be advised there are many candidates of many genders to choose from as Walter worked with many renowned Dutch scientists who have offspring of both genders. The list is very long. Should keep you busy for a while. Have fun!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#217 - Thank you for sharing this. What you describe is what I suspected. I never crossed paths with Dr. Lewin during my time at the Institute but I've certainly encountered professors like him. It's a sad but unfortunate truth that intellectual brilliance and professional success do not correlate with being a good person or having success in one's private life. For some they seem mutually exclusive. With great fame comes great arrogance. It's a sad end to an illustrious career but as he brought it on himself, no one could have prevented it.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210

Former MIT staff 1998-2004; 2007-2010

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Sorry, didn't mean to offend you, #218..I was merely musing about the human imagination, the way we interpret the comments of others and make assumptions. It was meant to be a light remark...not about you at all.

I can only imagine how upsetting this whole case must be if you know Walter Lewin actual opinion is logged at comment #194.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#218: I believe you that Lewin made enemies by being rude to colleagues. But that should not contribute to the punishment, unless of course there is a history of sexual harassment. And in the last case, only the bad behavior related to the alleged sexual harassment should have been considered.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Cont. from 221:

I meant that only past behavior relating to sexual harassment should be considered in terms of punishment for the sexual harassment that allegedly took place.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#218, Thanks for clarifying and I'm sorry if I sounded harsh. If you look at comment #200, you will see what a former female colleague at MIT had to say which resembles very much what I and many others have observed. If he would have been a nice, respectful person, without a troubled history with female students, incl. MIT, he would have walked away with perhaps not being allowed to conduct online courses but would have kept his title and his classes may still have been available. That's how these things are usually handled.However, if you manage to make a pattern out of it plus make so many enemies as he did, they will take any opportunity legally available to take you down, even if it takes a long time. The online harassment issue is only one portion of the whole picture of Walter losing his title. The worshipping and making excuses for him is illogical. It's been done before, over and over because of his brilliance. MIT is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world. Now why would they act illogically? They made the right decision, had to protect themselves against future incidents and were likely sick and tired of his grandiosity delusion and pathological narcissism for decades. MIT made a very harsh decision, and all the blind cult-like genius supporters out there need to use their EQ along with their IQ to figure out why, at age 78,a retired professor gets stripped of his title after 44 years and his brilliant lectures (so sad) taken offline. Think about it. It is very sad for everyone involved.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#223 and others make good points.

To summarize:

(1) Prof. Lewin had a pattern of rudeness noted by many commenters, creating enemies.

(2) Lewin's apparent Twitter account contained a nasty joke or two.

(3) One person claims that Lewin denies (!) that he made those nasty jokes.

(4) Though everyone empathizes with the emotional distress caused and opposes sexual harassment in a work setting, some commenters note that sexual harassment claims often turn out overblown, even sometimes flat-out false.

(5) To many commenters (men, women, foreigners, etc), the punishment seems excessive.

(6) A commenter notes that certain types of "sexual harassment" may just be "clumsy flirting" if outside a professional/work setting, and clumsy flirting is not really a crime.

There are many unknowns; all we see is a claim of "online sexual harassment." Given the absolute craziness around sexual harassment nowadays, I think it is right to be suspicious. Did Lewin see the allegations made against him? Does he deny the allegations (perhaps he claims he was hacked?)? Did the alleged behavior occur in a professional setting? Was he in an official "teacher" role? How severe was the behavior? Was there a pattern to it? The truth will come out.

Dave about 9 years ago ---- all his lectures are still available here.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It seems that people don't have anything better to do in their

spare time but bash Prof. Lewin. Perhaps its jealousy?

The Tech has provided quite a forum for this and it should be

stopped immediately.

Get over it and get a life.

Mark about 9 years ago

#223, how is a "scorched earth" response (removing online courses) by MIT administrators logical? Perhaps it was a desperate move because MIT administrators have no power to ban private citizen Lewin from course participation, especially if transgressions were not committed there. Lewin may not have agreed to cower silently in a corner, so the only control MIT had was in removing his email account, faculty web page, and online courses. Revenge for a history of boorishness is also illogical.

A clear example of sexual harassment is a video on YouTube with over 38 million views in 6 weeks. Its 100 seconds from 10 hours of walking on streets of New York City streets. Was Lewin this bad? How might MIT address the problem, where NYC mayors have failed? Close the sidewalks? Ban heterosexual men from them?

Poster 1, 170 about 9 years ago

The situation raises these additional questions:

1) What status and rights are afforded to teaching material published by MIT faculty and staff? Are they scholarly works or always mere dishrags that serve a function and need not be archived and made available to posterity? When, if ever, is OK to remove them?

2) Are course materials somehow special in that they have more influence over impressionable students than other types of publications? Are videos, in particular, more dangerous? Why are they more dangerous than a popular book or textbook written by an ostracized author? When are teachers different than authors? Can a teacher be demoted to author without limiting access and discrediting the value of their prior works?

3) What is the social contract between MIT OCW and the world? Are they a library of teaching materials or a retail shop sporting only the latest in-fashion course-wares? Is OCW different from a library in that its selection will always be small and hence there is too much bias/attention towards certain material and teachers? Any available historical material will always be carefully hand-picked?

IMO, the message that MIT is sending is that course materials are not scholarly works and have no inherent value for posterity. Professors and teachers wishing to leave a lasting legacy of their contributions should look elsewhere. Students wishing to gain alternative views unclouded by current political mantra should also look elsewhere.

Even if Prof. Lewin "had it coming", was a "swaggering giant", or "there are other online physics courses out there". Even if he sent naked selfies, had video sex, or outright raped and murdered a student, MIT has made it clear what they value. You are just a tool.

Anonymous about 9 years ago


How is being a victoria's secret model mundane?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I would like to preface my opinion with my attributes which do not cleanly fit any of the stereotypes idiotically mentioned in some of these comments:

1. I am female.

2. I am an MIT alumna Chemistry Physics.

3. I am pursuing my phd in infectious disease control program design, simulation, validation optimization.

4. For the past decade I've been a volunteer data analyst advocate for various public health issues including: Ebola West Africa epidemic, domestic/partner sexual violence, HIV, and more.

5. I understand why the case victim details need to be kept relatively private; however, from the information I have received I fear that the punishment was disproportionate, unfocused (i.e. collective punishment, should be EdX but not OCW), insensitive to Lewin's long-time teaching fame to/through MIT, and frankly reeks of potential politics justice science. This is neither good for victim(s) nor offender nor the MIT community nor students worldwide. Response to violence harassment of a sexual nature must 1) protect the victim, 2) follow the rules of justice such as 3) innocent until proven guilty 4) punishment proportional to crime. I fear that the 4th one may have been violated and believe there may be need for appeal for re-assessment of the case.

6. Does anyone have more official details? Please post if you do.

7. I donate to MIT every year since I graduated proportionally to my salary, and this response might affect the amount I donate each year and which parts of MIT I support.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

there were some typos in my previous comment due to interface, so reposting:

I would like to preface my opinion with my attributes which do not cleanly fit any of the stereotypes idiotically mentioned in some of these comments:

1. I am female.

2. I am an MIT alumna Chemistry and Physics.

3. I am pursuing my phd in infectious disease control program design, simulation, validation optimization.

4. For the past decade I've been a volunteer data analyst /or advocate for various public health issues including: Ebola West Africa epidemic, domestic/partner sexual violence, HIV, and more.

5. I understand why the case victim details need to be kept relatively private; however, from the information I have received I fear that the punishment was disproportionate, unfocused (i.e. collective punishment, should be EdX but not OCW), insensitive to Lewin's long-time teaching and fame to/through MIT, and frankly reeks of potential politics more than justice or science. This is neither good for victim(s) nor offender nor the MIT community nor students worldwide. Response to violence harassment of a sexual nature must 1) protect the victim, 2) follow the rules of justice such as 3) innocent until proven guilty 4) punishment proportional to crime. I fear that the 4th one may have been violated and believe there may be need for appeal for re-assessment of the case.

6. Does anyone have more official details? Please post if you do.

7. I donate to MIT every year since I graduated proportionally to my salary, and this response might affect the amount I donate each year and which parts of MIT I support.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Walter Lewin is innocent.

Yeah, given the circumstances, argue against that, without incriminating yourself.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am a female instructor of English. I am certainly opposed to all forms of sexual harassment. However, it appears that in the case of Walter Lewin, any clear perspective on the situation has been totally lost. The incident of harassment was an on-line exchange! There was no physical contact whatsoever! Previous comments refer to Walter Lewin's "rudeness" or boorish behavior. These criticisms are totally irrelevant to the situation. Certainly we would expect MIT to give some kind of warning to Mr. Lewin about continued bad behavior ON-LINE! But nothing justifies the shabby way in which MIT treated a brilliant professor who has made countless and incalculable contributions to his university. As #230/231 stated, "punishment proportion to crime." The humiliating and painful way that Professor Lewin has been treated in addition to the absurd decision to take down his classes is a disgrace. MIT should be ashamed.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#218 Professor Lewin. Is that you? I have listened to many of your lectures. And this sounds like the phrasing used to offer your students an assignment or a challenge until the next session and to wish them well. I can even imagine which words you might stress in your delivery.

Thank you.

I don't mean to diminish or augment what is purported to have occurred on topic and the decisions that were made in response.

I just want to thank you and MIT and all those who contributed. It is a body of work that stands on its own merit. Like a great piece of art work. Like giving birth to a child who develops and becomes their own person certainly because of their parents and perhaps despite of their parents.

It looks like this body of work will survive on and as they say, that is a good thing.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Reading the majority of the anonymous comments here makes me realize why rape victims don't come out against their rapists. So what if Lewin was a nice guy to YOU; pedophiles are great people to everyone else except the children they molest.

Anonymous about 9 years ago


It's disgraceful that you are allowed to anonymously post your thoughts that Walter Lewen is comparable to a criminal pedophile.

I think you're a cunt.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

And it's disgraceful that The Tech allows this discussion to go on.

It's in MIT's best interest to stop these comments immediately.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Wow #236, your attack on #235 is wildly inappropriate and would seem to be a violation of The Tech's comment policy. Also, rather hilarious in the context of a discussion on sexual harassment. I have reported it.

I did not read #235 as comparing Dr. Lewin to a pedophile but rather trying to make the point that many people have a public face and a private face. Just because you get the happy public face, doesn't mean they behave that way to all. We see it all the time whether it's pedophiles who are described as pillars of their communities or beloved celebrities who are divas behind the scenes.

It doesn't appear that the majority of the commenters have any idea what what Dr. Lewin did to elicit these sanctions from MIT. People have made the assumptions that Dr. Lewin wasn't warned previously (which anonymous Dutch astrophysicist offspring has said he was) and also that these sanctions were the result of one incident of online sexual harassment (where it seems some commenters are aware of a pattern of inappropriate behavior with women that spanned his career). People also assume that online harassment is somehow less serious than in person harassment or physical assault. Without knowing what happened, we can't make that determination.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Bring out the tear gas and rubber bullets! Cut off all communications. Erase the videos! Delete the Twitter account. Quick, quick!

Come on, MIT is better than this. Let the discussion continue until MIT acts to resolve the situation in a more competent manner.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

"America is a free country". If you disagree, you'll go to Guantanamo Bay. Funny how a comment online can make you a 'rapist'. #235, I sincerely wish you suffering and pain in life, for accusing an innocent person of paedophilia.

Thank god I am not a yankee!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

If you women are so dissatisfied with being "sexually harrassed" and receiving "sexist" (a very idiotic word) comments from men, do dress appropriately, and not like prostitutes, for God's sake!

Prof. Aaron Slepkov about 9 years ago

I am a physics professor at a small Canadian university. Lewin's youtube videos are so ingrained and established as both a learning and teaching tool that removal of these resources is tantamout to white-washing a Van Gogh because of offenses he is deemed to have made long after he produced his works. Or destroying Wagner's music because of his racism and chauvanism. MIT is leading by example, but it is the wrong kind of leadership. Show that you are a true leader and reverse your original decision. Repost the videos. Strip the guy of his present and future, but his history belongs to us all.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It's sad that MIT took such disproportionate measures against a 78 year old man, that clearly (for all who have seen his recent media appearances) is suffering from old age.

#237 Yeah, let's stop free speech, at least the free speech of the people you don't agree with.

#238 Since online harassment is one on/off button away from being stopped and especially since there can never be a dependency relation in a MOOC between professor and a 'student', how in your wildest fantasies could what happened between professor Lewin and the 'victim' be as serious as physical assault? You try to sound like the voice of reason, but you seem fairly predispositioned yourself.

Oh, and yes, professor Lewin was rude, probably a trait that manifested itself even more at old age, but he was that against men and women alike. Somehow some (not all!) women tend to automatically assume they are treated the way they are, because they are women, but it might be they are just treated equally like their male counterparts. Some women in fact expect to be treated differently (i.e. with some additional dose of respect and politeness) and are over-sensitive to whatever a male does.

Tom Andersen about 9 years ago

Book burning is exactly what this is. Yes the videos are available elsewhere, but that's also exactly the case with paper books.

We are all sure that the MIT library is not so stupid as to toss out any papers or other work of Prof. Lewin. It was a sad mistake made by the pompous administrators of MIT. The legacy of this decision is a black mark on MIT, the USA and what it stands for.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am not so much disturbed by the fact that they removed the lectures, but much more by the fact that MIT makes it look like prof. Lewin never existed. I.e. MIT tries to change its own history by removing any link to prof. Lewin.

Removing every trace of his existence on the MIT website, and making it look as if prof. Lewin never worked there, is done in the best Orwellian tradition, that we know from (former) East Germany and North Korea but is very disturbing to see in a Western institution.

Moreover, it is a disgrace MIT takes this disproportionate measure to an old man.

I am also disappointed in the physics department that nobody, as far as I'm aware, public stood up to this shameful treatment of one of their peers. Don't they realize they could be next in this climate of political correctness and power to the bureaucrats?

I wish professor Lewin all the best and I hope he will recover from this blow, and especially hope he will have the time to be witness his own rehabilitation.

(And for those asking: No, I don't feel particularly sorry for the 'victim'. She should have ignored further messages from the professor if she didn't appreciate them, and just gone on with her life instead of calling the Spanish, ehhh, I mean US inquisition.)

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I'm shocked and hard to believe how easy MIT dumps a great professor because of some floating claims , probably of some lonely conservative ladies. My question is why wasnt any claims all these years?? Could you consider is near 80 ? Despite all these physics concepts and new technology developments, obviously a new kind of Dark Mid-Century age is on the Rise......

Anonymous about 9 years ago

MIT is showing it's idiotic side.

After seeing first hand the way the older generation integrates into online chatting, I seriously doubt he did anything other than speak the way he would in real life. Which, under the guise of plain letters, may have seemed sexually aggressive. In reality it was nothing more than small talk.

But I'd like to know facts and not keep them so locked up because I have supreme distrust of institutions who make moves like this. Such as the way the school removed videos. It makes me think the schools bureaucratic process is functionally retarded. Leading me to believe the way the handled this 'investigation' was full of shit.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#200 "I worked closely with him for a number of years. He is immensely brilliant, but also an insufferable perfectionist and pathologically narcissistic. He could be charming while addressing an audience, but in other situations, he could be rude and insulting and inappropriate. He had no filters. "

So engage your own filters. There are all kinds of personalities in this world, many less than angelic. If you encounter someone with a manner you don't appreciate, you have the ability to filter them out of your mind and personal life. You should not have the ability to filter them completely out of society.

I highly question this charge of "sexual harassment". Unless he in some way interfered with or restricted the victim's ability to freely conduct their lives by means of threats, extortion, or some other form of coercion, I cannot imagine how an online interaction could amount to anything more than social impropriety.

Women need to grow a backbone. There is something on a computer called an off switch and a delete button. The same goes for your mind. Being "offended" is not cause for a criminal complaint and reprisal. If a construction worker whistles at a woman (or man) on the street, they are not justified in immediately seeking out the construction foreman and demand the worker be fired. They can simply press the "delete" button in their brain and move on. That is called strength of character. Hiring an attorney is not.

The lectures should remain online. They are a threat to nobody.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#243 - I was tired when I wrote #238 and did not express myself clearly. I was not trying to equate physical assault with online harassment, I was trying to get across the point that people who downplay online harassment as not as serious as in person harassment or assault may be mistaken depending on the circumstances. If you think online harassment cannot be as terrifying or disturbing as in person harassment then you've likely never been seriously harassed online.

Many of you seem to want to assume that Dr. Lewins actions cant have been harmful but you dont know that. Saying that online harassment is one on/off button away from being stopped puts the burden on the victim to stop or avoid the harassment which entirely misses the point that the harasser shouldnt be harassing in the first place and should be accountable for their actions. Once someone has your contact information there may be nothing you can do to stop the harassment. Should people who are being harassed online have to abandon their email addresses and social media accounts if they dont have the means to block their harasser? Should they be forced to get off the Internet altogether to avoid the harassment?

The husband of a mentally ill friend once sent me and his wife's brother text messages threatening physical violence after I called the police for a wellness check on his wife. I didn't think the threat was particularly credible since he lived in another state and couldn't afford a plane ticket to come and assault me but I did find it frightening that his response to our concern for his wifes well-being was to threaten us with physical harm and wondered what that said about his own mental state and the safety of his wife and children. Since it was just one threat I handled it by telling him via email how wholly inappropriate I found his behavior but if he had persisted, I might very well have called the police and pressed charges. There was nothing I could do to avoid his texts and emails since he had my contact information.

Narcissistic men who are rude to people of any gender often reserve certain rudeness for women in particular. We havent heard anything to indicate that Dr. Lewin has a history of sexually harassing the young men he interacted with at MIT.

Im predisposed to being aggravated by people who make misinformed statements about the minimal harm that sexual harassment does and what victims should be doing in response.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#245 - A search for walter lewin using the search box on MITs page produces 10 pages of results.

If Dr. Lewin behaved inappropriately (which MIT clearly believes he has), he shouldn't receive special consideration because he's a brilliant physicist or due to his advanced years. There shouldnt be one set of rules for brilliant people and another for everyone else.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238, 249

Anonymous about 9 years ago

We haven't forgotten what MIT did to Aaron Swartz.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Hey, we're approaching Christmas. What better time for resurrection of the crucified? God is dead, but we have Prof. Lewin! Now that's a press release more in line with what I would expect from MIT. Go for it guys. Until the decision is reversed, the immense, lasting damaging being done to both the gender equality movement and MIT (reputation, goodwill, alumni funding, etc, etc) will continue to spiral out of control. President Reif, even though you never attended MIT as a student, many of the panel in the decision were in EECS where you were dept. head, and the fact that you are intimately involved with edX/MITx, you can be comforted by the fact that Pontius Pilate was able to spin the story to show that he personally stood up for Jesus despite ultimately having sentenced him to be crucified.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#250 I agree that the level of his brilliance shouldn't be a factor in the judgment of the case. I however strongly believe it is not black and white when it comes to holding people accountable/responsible for their actions. And that the punishment and the harshness of treatment should take into account the 'state of mind' of the 'perpetrator'.

I know in the US minors of 13 years old are sometimes tried as an adult and that there are people in the US serving a life penalty for minor crimes because of the '3 strikes out' laws. Coming down on an old man like this fits this US tradition, as does your statement that advances years should be of no consideration.

I come from a country that fortunately has a different tradition and takes the personality of the person and all other circumstances into account when judging and giving penalties.

If you compare videos of prof Lewin of say 10 years ago (example: with the most recent ones, it is immediately clear he has changed and at 78 has started to behave more 'eccentric' to put it mildly. People who feel this shouldn't be a factor of consideration... well I hope they stay in the US.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Fucking hell.

Was my comment #236 removed because I used the C word?

I was, very reasonably, attacking ANONYMOUS commenter #235 for a reprehensible accusation.

If using the C word has been judged to make that comment inappropriate, then I think this whole fucking episode is a shambles - and I think MIT, like many other US institutions these days, is dumb dumb dumb when it comes to moral judgement

If someone, reprehensibly, implies that Lewin is a criminal pedophile, and in return I call them (for that reprehensible accusation) a C - what's the fucking problem?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#249 I don't claim that online harassment does not exist, nor that it can't have an impact. But as said, there is no dependence relation in a MOOC (although some people here and on Twitter frame the story by leaving out the 'online' part and are calling it a professor-student relation to imply a dependence that is not there).

Moreover, how scary can this 78 old guy be? You compare him to a mentally ill guy threating physical violence... Do you really think the 'victim' was afraid that 78 year old Parkinson patient Lewin would come after her...?

I think you also mentioned the scenario in #209 of prof. Lewin sending photos of its privates (a comical though I must say). I am not saying this would be very appropriate behavior, but even if this were the case, the 'victim' could have laughed (like I would if some person sent me photo's of his or (preferably) her privates) and pressed either 'delete' or 'forward to friends' or 'publish on twitter', depending on her mood.

I know we don't have all the facts, but you certainly have a good deal of imagination to assume a scenario in which MIT's action would be deemed appropriate and proportionate.

- 243

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#253 - Of course these decisions aren't black and white and there's a context for everything. However, I find it incredibly frustrating that you and the majority of other commenters assume that MIT's sanctions were an overreaction and that you all know better than the large number of faculty who were consulted on the decision.

Dr. Lewin could very well be suffering from dementia as some commenters have indicated. Perhaps thats why MIT took the steps they did. If he is suffering from dementia, its not as though he can learn from the consequences and modify his behavior. The press release states the reason for removal of the courses very clearly - they wanted to remove Dr. Lewins ability to interact with students. It isnt entirely clear to me how punitive the move was meant to be. If they cant rely on Dr. Lewin to control himself, this may be the only thing they could do to curb his inappropriate behavior.

MIT is indefinitely removing Lewins online courses, in the interest of preventing any further inappropriate behavior."

It's interesting that you assume I am from this country. I'm not. I come from a developed country in Asian where women are even more second class citizens than in the US (if youre wondering why my English is fluent, my mom is American and was an English teacher, so English is one of two first languages for me). Sometimes I wish I'd been raised in my home country because I would love to know what it would have been like not to face racial discrimination but other times I'm glad to have grown up here because I know I would have had limited opportunities and faced even more discrimination as a woman than I've faced here.

I don't agree with the US trying very young children as adults. When they're 16/17 it's a bit harder to say. However, I definitely don't think being an old man or woman should not get you a pass on consequences for inappropriate or criminal behavior unless youre so mentally compromised that you cant be held responsible for your actions. I come from a society where we're expected to have deep respect and deference for our elders and while I appreciate it sometimes in some cases it just leads to fake deference for people who don't deserve it at all.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238, 249, 250

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#249 "Narcissistic men who are rude to people of any gender often reserve certain rudeness for women in particular."

Is that a fact? My experience is that men in general are much ruder (i.e. speak their mind) to other men, and often feel they have to be extra careful when dealing with women because they could hurt some feelings (or even be accused of sexism). My experience is that certain women can't handle criticism and often take it much more personal than it was intended.

"We havent heard anything to indicate that Dr. Lewin has a history of sexually harassing the young men he interacted with at MIT."

Nor have we heard anything except some hearsay/gossip on the reputation of professor Lewin. And this gossip was on how rude he was, and that he was (perceivably) blunt to women in particular. It is typical that you immediately make a leap in your mind to SEXUAL harassment.

In one of his videos, prof. Lewin beat a guy with cat fur and in another one a male student had to lie down on a desk to be measured. I am quite sure had this been female students, some twisted minds has seen this as (sexual) harassment.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#255 - I was not attempting to compare Dr. Lewin with my friends mentally questionable husband, I was using the example to show that harassment via virtual communication can be quite upsetting and troubling.

I have never met Dr. Lewin so I have no idea how scary he can be, but saying that old men cant be scary due to their age and perceived frailty is ridiculous. Tell that to people who are abused by their elderly spouses or grandfathers. Perhaps those who know him can speak to that in more detail.

209 was just a more egregious example of online sexual harassment that can happen to counter the nonsense suggestions that Dr. Lewin was most likely disciplined for nothing more than calling a student honey. I really cannot imagine that all the many faculty and administration members involved in making the decisions of the sanctions against Dr. Lewin are so stupid (or vindictive) as to risk a lawsuit over terms of endearment. I dont think it requires much imagination to come up with possible scenarios of Dr. Lewins behavior that elicited the drastic steps MIT took.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238, 249, 250, 256

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#256 I apologize for assuming you come from the US, a country that I once admired, but I was young and nave in those days. (disclaimer: I still have great admiration for certain products, aspects and people from the US, but it is no longer a universal admiration, far from...)

Thanks for taking the time to clarify your background and point of view.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#257 - Clearly I should have qualified my statement by saying "some narcissistic heterosexual men". Not being a man myself I guess I have no idea how narcissistic heterosexual men treat other men since I've never been on the receiving end of such attention. Almost all my workplaces have been male-dominated, however, and what I've seen is that many men (narcissistic or otherwise) treat other men with more respect and deference than they treat women and they also don't sexually harass their male colleagues if they are straight. (I did hear of a gay narcissistic coworker sexually harassing male colleagues, though never observed it myself.)

I have seen some male colleagues appear to walk on eggshells when I have been in meetings, apologizing for off-color jokes and the like but that was limited to one workplace (not at MIT). I never did figure out if that was due to past problems in the department or these guys just being more aware of the fact that they were using their outside voices and saying things that could be deemed offensive (though I was personally more offended that they were treating me like a delicate flower, but I have no idea if other women in the department complained).

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238, 249, 250, 256, 258

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#259 - "I apologize for assuming you come from the US, a country that I once admired,"

Believe me, not all Americans love America. Just take a look at all the protests going on right now. I do have US citizenship and having been raised here I am more Asian American than Asian but I learned a long time ago that much of what I learned in US history classes were lies, or not really the whole truth. But all countries have dark histories and flaws. My dad worked in business in the US for many years and I think at times had nostalgia for home but when he finally got to go home and work there for a few years he complained that his staff were not nearly as creative as his American staff. Because in Asia (well, certainly in my home country) independent thinking is not encouraged because individualism is not encouraged. Every country and culture has its strengths and weaknesses.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238, 249, 250, 256, 258, 260

Anonymous about 9 years ago


Big reasons for keeping women out of boardrooms.

Can't be done in academia or anywhere else in the public sector but can, and will be done, MORE SO, in business.

You gals are just too senstive and troublesome, ain't ya' now?

michael wind about 9 years ago

perhaps we should examine the accusers,and the leadership also needs a investigation,......

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I have known Walter for nearly 40 years, following his personal and professional life closely. He is charismatic on stage; photogenic on video; a consummate teacher who radiates inspiration. In person, he can be charming or obnoxious, vulnerable or stubborn, gracious or ill-mannered. He is a genius when it comes to understanding the psychology of an audience and a dunce when it comes to individuals. Anyone who knows him well realizes that he has a complex character several standard deviations from the norm. He treats all people alike, including his family. I have seen no evidence of dementia or senility: he is as sharp now as ever. That he used poor judgment in his on-line communications with a student is evident and, quite frankly, not surprising. There is no use speculating on what happened in this case. Whatever of a sexual nature transpired over the internet between Walter and the person who lodged the complaint, the fact remains that she was a student at the time and he was a professor. That is what is significant and that is why MIT had to punish Walter: a professor is expected to avoid relationships with students. All the discussion about the enemies Walter made at MIT over the years, the possibility that the student was oversensitive, or the possibility that something more heinous took place is irrelevant. MIT had evidence of an inappropriate relationship between a student and teacher. That is punishable under MITs codes.

But removing the videos does not punish Walter; it punishes all the people who have come to rely on them. Since any possible communication between Walter and viewers via MIT has been cut off, MIT is showing poor judgment by removing them.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

As others have noted, MIT is erasing all mention of Professor Lewin from its history (he may not be emeritus anymore, but he was a professor for many decades. so the title "professor" is still applicable the way an ambassador or general are still referred to by the title long after retirement from those offices).

MIT has removed the article that reported that Lewin was the only professor at MIT featured in The Best 300 Professors in the Princeton Review in 2012. They have removed the long, 2.5 hour interview with him made to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the institute ( They have removed his farewell lecture For the Love of Physics given on May 16th, 2011, already viewed by 1.3 million people.

Does anyone know if this kind of erasure, turning someone into an un-person, has become typical of university policy in the USA whenever a professor is censured? Has it happened elsewhere? It is rather creepy. Have they removed all mention of grants he received or research he completed? Has mention of his role as PhD advisor been removed from student bios? Has his signature on their theses been blacked out?

Sexual harassment in any form is nasty; but re-writing history is a strange way to respond to it.

marc about 9 years ago

The worse problem is the use of sanctions

Just as sanctions against Iraq starved half a million Iraqi children MIT's sanctions against Professer Lewin's physics lectures starve the minds of half a million students.

There is no room in civilized behavior for the suppression of knowledge.

MIT is a modern day Domincan Inquisitor.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#262 - You must be lacking in conviction since you're unwilling to use your real name to present your dazzling thoughts on women in business to the world.

Jack D about 9 years ago

Sexual harassment in any form is nasty; but re-writing history is a strange way to respond to it.

Not at all strange. The totalitarian mentality always wants to re-write history. Orwell understood this perfectly. Stalin had his enemies airbrushed from photographs. In ancient times, statues were literally de-faced.

If Lewin had been exposed as a Communist 60 years ago and he had been made an un-person at MIT as punishment for that, he would be a legendary hero and a martyr of the left, but since this was done in the name of a politically correct cause, there is nary a peep today. One can only hope that some future generation will come to its senses and undo the excessive airbrushing, but like Stalin's victims, it will probably be a posthumous rehabilitation.

The big question is, why and how have we allowed the totalitarian mentality to insert itself into life at MIT? No one who lived thru the '60s could imagine that America would make such a turn toward totalitarianism from the left and that hardly anyone would object.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#268 There are many reasons. I guess it starts with the students, who live a competitive life devoid of deeper meaning. They want to get a selective job, not grow as individuals. As an MIT student, what I see is that honesty, fairness, straightforwardness, balls, self-reflection, moods, thoughtfulness, altruism, etc. are all gone, often effectively criminalized as "offensiveness," "depression," or "harassment." That ancient value of "good character" is replaced by a vulgar status game. Political correctness is the only ideal, and deviations from it are the gravest, most horrible crimes, since they distract from that all-important brawl for status. In some "social justice" circles, it's quite totalitarian: pointing out a fact or disagreeing with a political idea is grounds for exclusion.

For instance, writing knowledgeably that "drunk women are problems" is "grotesque" and "inappropriate," criticizing Israel loses you tenure, and making a reasoned, unpopular argument about race, binge-drinking, homosexuality, sex differences, hook-up culture, masculinity, marriage, etc. can cause great damage to your career, particularly if you challenge the fundamental forces that undergird the status game. Even the president of Harvard loses his job for making a simple observation about the distribution of IQ scores: women in the audience said they "couldn't breathe," but since when does an IQ figure determine the worth of any person? Well, since getting a selective job became the meaning of life. Veritably, it seems we must spend our energy appeasing women and getting credentials, not building a strong community.

The media is complicit as well. Hook-up drama caused by immature students becomes "rape culture," necessitating some giant "cultural shift." A story about a gang rape at UVA causes widespread media attention, protests, property damage and a total shutdown of frats for months. When Washington Post shows the story to be a hoax by a mentally unstable storyteller, the news is unreported by NYTimes and the other media outlets who fuelled the hate-machine.

The end result is students keep their head down and live in a bubble. An unconventional political idea gives people crazy eyes, their brains figuring out the best way to retaliate. The mind abhors a vacuum, and the elimination of struggle and virtue has caused some worrying trends. I feel I could almost write a book detailing how MIT has degenerated over the years I've been here.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#264 Thanks for sharing your experiences with Walter Lewin.

I can relate to much you write, but there is something in your comment, that puzzles me. You say she was a student and he was a professor, but this suggests something that simply isn't there: a dependency relation. We are talking a MOOC, which is free, does not give credit and all assessments are automated. The only thing that makes WL the professor is that he is in the videos and the 'victim' only is a student because she watches those videos. It is total nonsense to compare this to a 'normal' prof-student relation where the student paid thousands of dollars, is after a degree and in dependent on the prof for getting the degree/credit.

It is so much out of proportion/context from MIT to treat this incident alike an on-campus event.

And even if it would have happened on campus, the reaction from MIT is ... well I can't write it any better than #268 did.

#269 hear, hear!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I do hope very much that the women victims of Prof Lewin's tweets seek out the healing they deserve in a Survivors of Sexual Innuendo Group.

Their lives need not end in festering trauma and psychological ruin! There is always hope!

Rehbock about 9 years ago

A free online course, right? How is this women harassed because a senile prof males lewd remarks on the Internet? None of it affects the course materials,either, right? Not like the fellow that stripped at a conference? What a bunch of idiots you are. Is that what the I stands for in your acronym?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#270: I understand the point you are making. Compared to, say, the close relationship a professor may have with a grad student where the professor can make or break a career, the teacher of a MOOC has little or no leverage over someone taking the course. I was merely reporting on how MIT views the case: there was a professor-student relation between WL and the woman who complained.

I wish to distance myself completely from the statements by 268, 269, and 270. MIT's actions have certainly been out of proportion to WL's lapse of judgment. To see in those actions the signs of totalitarian control is also out of proportion!

Mark about 9 years ago

Folks, apply some logic to MIT's actions and the conclusion is that Lewin's alleged offenses took place over Twitter or email etc. and not the MITx MOOC. If offenses had happened there, banning him from participation would have been sufficient to shelter women from him. Since MIT does not control Twitter or the Internet, the only thing they can do to lessen likelihood of women coming into contact with Lewin, is by erasing his fame, allure, and existence as much as they can. Security through obscurity.

cjw about 9 years ago

I am a victim here. I was stunned to discover that I was blocked out of the archived class that I had been using to teach myself physics for several months. I had done all HW and tests, and watched all lectures, and was nearly halfway done with the course. I had learned of Walter Lewin several years before and was super-excited to go through the entire introductory physics sequence with him. It just doesn't seem fair the people like me, and countless of others in the future, will lose the benefit of his brilliancy to teach physics. As an educator, this story reveals something that I learned a while ago: people in the business of education don't care about education; they care about politics, exerting power, and their own personal agendas.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#274 Basically then, if you're in academia it's illegal to use any celebrity status you gain to flirt with younger people familiar with your work. Unlike rock stars, celebrities, politicians, etc., you must be monogamous.

Jason about 9 years ago

I was in that 8.02x course, and it's not so shocking that something like this occurred. I remember being struck by some seemingly flirtatious comments to female students on the forums. "He's just Dutch," I'd figured.

It's hard for me to imagine what online interaction merits this level of response; honestly, even if he's sending out pictures of his genitals it's embarrassing but not really that destructive. The deserving offense I can think of is offering to use his clout at MIT in exchange for sexual favours, in which case the offense would not be sexual harassment so much as academic fraud.

That said, I respect MIT's authority to remove him from its employ. The retroactive purge of association, though, seems like public relations bullshit. I don't think this loss of information protects anyone, except that 40 years from now MIT can more easily pretend Walter Lewin never existed -- and actually, I think that would be a loss of prestige for MIT. I've watched 30-some courses worth of online lectures (I'm sure there are others here who've seen more), and his is the best presentation of EM I've encountered. Shankar's good -- I sat in on his class at one point -- but he's still no Walter Lewin. It would be a shame if those lectures were lost, but again, I think MIT has the right to remove their endorsement. The content should (and probably will) be available elsewhere; ideally they'd just leave it on edX, just without the M, the I, and the T, and including a note to caution students about Prof. Lewin's past transgressions, in as much or little detail as they desire. It's probably the most responsible thing to do.

My only real disappointment is that we'll never see 8.03X.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am shocked to see the degree with which academic hero worship can blind people to the obvious.

80 of the posts above are predicated on the fact that "certainly, he did nothing at all to deserve this." Senility... Social awkwardness... Aspergers... Yeah, right.

MIT has a vested interest in its faculty being public figures. ...revered public figures, in fact. The university - like most - would like nothing better than to have its representatives achieve the level of recognition and admiration that has been earned by Dr. Lewin.

So, first, imagine... just imagine... how bad he must have screwed up to warrant the university deciding to dissociate themselves from him entirely. This wasn't calling the victim "honey," as was suggested by someone clearly suffering the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. This - coupled with the probable first and second strikes already in his employment file - was bad. How do I know? Because it had to be bad enough to make them say "we need to dissociate ourselves from this guy - no matter how much he is revered or how valuable his contributions."

Then, after your brain is wrapped around that concept... try to grasp the meaning of dissociation. Dissociation doesn't mean "We sent him a letter of reprimand, but will still host his videos and let him splash his name all over with the letters M, I, and T attached. Dissociation means they are done. Done.

He isn't an "unperson." He can re-record his lectures and host them on his own website. He can give them away, charge money for them, or exchange them for topless photos of prospective students. ...and he might.

He just can't do it with the help of MIT.


It's his fault and his fault alone.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I hope all you women and young girls out there learn something from this. Keep your damned mouth shut next time!!! Look at what speaking out brings. That girl who reported WL completely ruined the lifework and legacy of one of the world's most brilliant professors. She cut off access to education (that took decades to produce!), to literally millions of students around the world now and for years to come. I feel worse for her than for WL. If she didn't need therapy before, she will need it now. How can MIT expect anyone to live with that kind of guilt and infamy? Seriously women, have a freaking bar next time - you'd better feel absolutely certain that your attacker/harrasser deserves the utmost in medieval maiming, torture and death before you file even the smallest complaint. Mothers, please teach the parable of crying wolf to your daughters too young to hear about all of this.

Rehbock about 9 years ago

Now that I have seen his "harassment" I think he needs to sue MIT for defamation.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Walter Lewin, another victim of radical feminism and modern over-sensitivity.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

278 is dead wrong. YOU and idiots who think like you,

are at fault here, NOT Prof. Lewin. You must be republican...

Rehbock about 9 years ago

I hope that the young men and women who by and large are intelligent and sane, will respond with sufficient vigor and persistence to cause the idiots at MIT to rescind and apologize.

I, an old lawyer, became a young lawyer partly because I was scared that I was not smart enough for MIT. I was wrong. As an attorney I learned to watch out for the kind of groupthink that led to this. I learned to look before I leap. I suspect that some of the people who represent MIT were not wrong when they decided against STEM career. That, or they were not paying any attention in class. The only one that committed any legal wrong was the school. Anyway I get paid to be right so I will stop because I am not on the clock but I hope he gets counsel and sues MIT for defaming him.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

So #282... It's not a pervy professor's fault that he's being reprimanded by the university for not maintaining a basic level of mutually agreed to professional decency. It's my fault.

What color is the sun on your planet?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#283 Indeed; thank you for your valuable contribution. Lewin has to fight back. I'm not a lawyer, but a defamation lawsuit may be a good way. There are also other ways of hitting back. Hard. Having seen a number of these cases, this really seems like an instance of harmless sexual innuendo. Though I empathize with the accuser's pain, the accuser is likely an oversensitive, mentally ill scumbag. There are too many of those women nowadays (in addition to the many sensible, grounded women I know).

#284 Sure, he probably went a little too far with an off-color online joke. Some blame may lie with him. Is that enough for MIT to cut ties with a beloved professor? No. More blame probably lies with the accuser and the administrator, who decided that a couple socially unacceptable words are enough to destroy a man's life work.

- MIT student (not 282)

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Nooo... probability does not suggest that this is an "off color online joke." The magnitude of the university response suggests that this is more.

The declarations that the university response is heavy-handed are baseless. The university didn't release their findings - perhaps out of professional courtesy. None of you know what they based their decision on. Saying that what he did doesn't rise to the level of their response is presumptive fiction.

The answer, as it turns out, is in this vigorously advocated lawsuit. If the university is being extreme, Dr. L will seek some form of appellate justice. But, if the university response was, in fact, appropriate, sleeping dogs will be left to lie.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This baseless speculation on what actually happened between WL and the woman is leading to useless and absurd conclusions. When someone writes "this really seems like an instance of harmless sexual innuendo," or other remarks dismissive of the woman's claim of sexual harassment, the only fact made clear is the prejudice of the author and the assumption that women file false complaints or are foolishly hypersensitive. I am privy to some of the details of this case which I will not disclose. All I'm willing to say is that much more was involved than a few off-color remarks or a patronizing "honey" or two. None of those ranting about oversensitive women seem to have any imagination about the range of forms sexual harassment can take - including long term emotional pressure of various damaging kinds. Note that I am not saying that is what took place here, but just that there are many, many forms of sexual harassment and those who assume that they know what happened on the basis of the MIT press release are simply airing their own biases, either exaggerating the offense or trivializing it, but in either case not even an iota close to the truth. MIT elected to protect the privacy of both parties. Don't read your own assumptions into the ambiguity purposely created by what MIT reported. This is my only post on this topic, so don't ask for more information.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#287: IT seems MIT elected only to protect the privacy

of ONE person. You know most of the faculty did not

support MIT's "punishment" of a bad boy...

If a sane woman thinks she is being harassed all she

has to do is shut the computer. The MIT administration has gone along with the rantings and ravings of a psychotic lunatic in order to show the Feds they are paying attention to complaints, no matter matter what looney tune comes out with them.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#287: I think we all (or most of us) understand how pernicious sexual harassment can be. However, the limiting nature of online interaction coupled with the structure of EdX limits the scope of possible harassment. There was no real power relationship here because the "grade" is determined automatically by the website, and frankly, the certificate doesn't mean anything anyway. And people have perused Lewin's twitter account on their own and an 8.02X participant had commented. By all accounts, Lewin was flirtatious with female students, which is inappropriate, and there was one vulgar comment on twitter that was beyond the pale (far worse than using "honey" in a conversation.) The fact that both of the people he was talking to on twitter during that interaction suddenly became "invisible" (as noted by Lewin) suggests that this may have been the offense which precipitated the investigation.

Anyway, it's not our own prejudice but largely conclusions made on the incomplete evidence available (everything except personal email.)

Still, whether or not it's justified firing Lewin, these offenses do not justify taking down the videos and destroying the rest of the course content.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#287: There's another anonymous source with inside info that claims that the offensive quote mentioned in #288 and documented in this thread was not written by Lewin and that Lewin did not even know what it meant. This person claimed to have talked to Lewin. The implication was that Lewin's twitter account was hacked.

Now, who are we supposed to believe. Commenters with inside info who support Lewin or those who don't?

Mark about 9 years ago

#287: There is a basis for believing that WL may have only called a woman "Honey". It is MIT's policy on sexual harassment! The policy does not set levels of violation, its binary. Even the most minor transgressions can be labeled sexual harassment. Fix the policy if you don't want dismissive responses to its application.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I think that the attacks on MIT are totally misguided. The question is not when MIT will bring back the Lewin lectures, the question is when will MIT replace its online physics classes with new versions that don't promote someone who has used the fame and access MIT provided him to act as a sexual predator.

Everyone agrees that Walter Lewin was a great physics teacher. But, there are a lot of great physics teachers, even some who don't work at MIT anymore because they prioritized their teaching far too much over their research and didn't get tenure. Walter Lewin is a FAMOUS great physics teacher because MIT paid for a big lecture hall, and MIT paid for lots of staff and equipment for fun demonstrations, and MIT paid for filming and editing of high quality videos of those lectures, and MIT paid to have those lectures hosted free online, and MIT paid to have the additional high quality instructional materials required to actually learn the physics produced and posted as well. Not to mention that MIT enhanced those videos with the irreplaceable MIT brand name.

Then, MIT paid even more to promote Walter more widely by making him the public face of its first edX physics courses. Recently MIT learned that Lewin had used this expanded access as an opportunity to prey on women. So, MIT decided it didn't want to spend any more of its own money or further promote this undeserving person as the face of MIT physics. MIT recognizes everyone's right to watch whatever they want online, but they reserve the right to decide what they want to spend their own money and prestige promoting.

So, please drop all this "censorship" nonsense and start demanding that MIT live up to its commitment to quality online physics instructional material in a way that doesn't compromise MIT values.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It is certainly true that there are some overly-sensitive women out there who are too easily offended, However, it's clear from a disgustingly large fraction of these posts that those women are vastly outnumbered by the whiney, overly-sensitive men who can't stand the fact that they now have to treat women as human beings, not sex objects.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

292: How about MIT censors Lewin's face in all the videos so that students can be spared the horror. It can't be too hard, right.

Or perhaps we can use CGI to replace his face with someone else's. It worked for Arnold in the new Terminator movies.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#293 Ha! You criticize "whiney" men for being "disgusting." Look yourself in the mirror, buddy.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am thrilled that MIT is taking sexual harassment seriously.

The appropriateness of MIT's response is most clearly shown by the venom of all Walter's apologists.

Unfortunately, in our sexist society, it is the norm that sexual harassment is overlooked, ignored or forgiven, harassers are given the benefit of the doubt, and accusers are ridiculed. Especially so when the harasser is a white male of status.

Putting an end to this status quo is a significant and bold step towards equality and equal access of STEM education to women.

It is appropriate that MIT is more concerned about the actual educational environment it is curating than any particular set of educational materials.

Having learned physics without the aid of Walter, I can assure you that his video lectures are not a necessary part of learning introductory physics.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#287, #292, and #296 brought it home. Thank you.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Has anyone thought to ask the female EdX students what they want to happen to the lectures? There are plenty of females in the comments here who think taking the videos down and destroying the other course content is completely unnecessary. Fire the guy, but it's a waste of time to re-do the lectures.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

MIT did not make Walter Lewin # 292.

Walter Lewin made MIT.

Just ask how many of those whiney females came to MIT because of his teaching. His lectures can never be replaced.

MIT wants Prof. Lewin out of the picture because he became so well known. Haven't you figured that out yet?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Welcome to the world of contemporary feminism.

All moral panic all the time.

Lewin wrote a bad word, and we feel faint!

But don't you DARE call it call it vapors! I swear to God if you do that, we are going to faint right here, and, boy, won't you be sorry!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I wonder how many women will discover something new about nature once they are free from persecution?

Probably about zero, like usual

Let's assess (for example) the UK's supposed great female scientists.

Rosalind Franklin, she was given the BEST cystallographic samples existing in the world (FOR SOME STRANGE BULLSHIT REASON) - and couldn't fuckin' work out NATURE STARING HER IN THE FACE

If anything, Franklin DELAYED the discovery of knowledge by manking by her neurotic inability to interact with people.


Jocelyn Bell - a robot observer - a supermarket clark would have recognised the signal given proper instruction.

Dorothy Hodgkin - a plodder - years and years doing stuff that no interesting person would do, got her the structure of Insulin eventually. Great. Zero benifit to mankind. This female destroyed dozens of potential great scientists lives on this boring shit. Anyone with a brain knew we had to wait a few years for the technology which would make this structure identification stuff trivial.


Really worrying that females are big in medicine now - you will most likely have a female assess your health now (using theories worked out by men)

Really scary

Anonymous about 9 years ago

That's just dumb #301.

Anonymous about 9 years ago


the only thing dumb is that it's so easy for my to piss on the reputation of those "celebrated" women

I just have to state facts.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Yeah, the case of Rosalind Franklin is a pretty obvious one on the facts.

She sat on her famous photo 51 for about 8 months, going basically nowhere with it. Watson was given a sneak peak, and within about 2 months he and Crick had a full blown model of DNA.

And somehow Franklin was every bit as much the scientist as Crick or Watson? She had an 8 month head start, and came up with squat!

If it had been left to her, and she had lived another 100 years, we still wouldn't know the structure of DNA.

But I guess maybe Franklin read some bad words written by some male professor, and that's why she couldn't hack it.


fishfry about 9 years ago

To punish someone without making public the charges against him is simply wrong. Maybe he did something terrible, maybe he didn't. How would anyone know?

And the removal of the videos ... will they remove his books from the library, his papers from journals, his discoveries from science?

Do we all live in the Soviet Union now?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Maybe that's why there's no other alien life in the Universe.

Wherever life evolves, dumb women destroy it by their retardness combined with the innate goodwill of men.

Men probably need to man up.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#299: What an absurd statement! MIT just celebrated their 150th anniversary. Do you really think no one had heard of MIT before Walter Lewin came along? And if they really wanted him "out of the picture because he was so well known", why did they sink millions of dollars into edX and then make Walter the very prominent centerpiece of their first two online physics classes? It's fine to argue the merits of what should or should not be done with things like OpenCourseWare materials but at least stay within the realm of reality.

#294: There is no "horror" in the Lewin videos. There is, however, a lot of fame accruing to him when these videos are promoted and he used that fame to bad ends.

#298: MIT did not "destroy" any course content. They have simply removed them while they decide the best course going forward to achieve their educational mission without further promoting someone who used his fame from such online postings to further his career as a sexual predator.

#305: MIT is respecting the privacy of all involved, including Lewin. If you read the various commentary, you would know that he was given a copy of the full report of the investigation. What he choses to do with that is his own business. MIT is showing more respect for Lewin than Lewin did for MIT by not airing his dirty laundry in public, even if that generates all sorts of nonsense about how "frivolous" his actions may have been.

And, if you read post #292, you might understand the important difference between no longer spending money to actively promote the fame of someone you don't think deserves to be so-promoted, and destroying books or removing journal articles, none of which are even remotely being proposed.

Finally, it's a real mystery to me what all of these very angry men are so upset about. Do women demanding respect really scare all of you that much? Pretty pathetic if you ask me. Put me in the category of a man who is very angry that all of these ridiculous posts reflect badly on all men.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#278, #292, #307 - THANK YOU. I dont understand why this is so difficult for so many of the other commenters to grasp.

#293 - Wow. That very concisely sums up what Ive been thinking while Ive been reading the nonsense posts. Its almost comical that these men accuse women of being oversensitive when they probably couldnt survive the shit we have to put up with our entire lives for just one day.

(sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assault, gender-based discrimination)

#289 - Why is it so difficult to comprehend that Dr. Lewins public conversations with women on Twitter and edX are likely not the sum total of his online interactions with women? His behavior on public forums is an incomplete record of how he interacts with women. Were not privy to private email or other forums/apps where he may have had private communication with women. Conclusions drawn on the basis of a few public Tweets or edX posts are worthless.

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238, 249, 250, 256, 258, 260, 267

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#288 - Please do explain how a female student wishing to learn physics (or any other subject) online in a harassment-free environment may do so if she needs to "shut the computer" in order to avoid Dr. Lewin's (or any other educator's) harassing communications? Or would you rather we returned to the days when women couldn't be educated?

- 123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238, 249, 250, 256, 258, 260, 267, 308

Anonymous about 9 years ago

You know what's going to happen in the future with MIT, now that half its students are women?

MIT is in a few decades going to get only slightly more than half of the contributions it's been getting in the past from its alumni.

Why? Because women almost never achieve the level of money making that men do: they almost never rise to the top of the corporate ladder, nor, more to the point, they almost never create startups that bring great wealth to them. It is this sort of wealth and money making power that drives the greatest contributions from alumni. And women just won't generate it any more in the future than they have in the past.

So MIT can play the diversity game all it wants, but there is a huge price to be paid for it.

And guess what? Turning a thousand Lewins into unpersons won't change that. Because, dear MIT administrators, it's all biology, and even you and your brainless policies and arrogant attitude can't stop biology.

You've bet on culture, like idiots, but that is a bet you will lose.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

To this very day, the vast majority of mathematically precocious seventh graders as tested by SMPY are boys -- there are 6.58 boys to every girl who score a perfect 800 on the SAT. That number hasn't budged in many years.

Do the fools in the MIT administration think that that is going to change because of the sort of brainlessly unforgiving policies they are adopting?

No, I'm sorry clowns, it's not.

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, ability in math may have just a little bit to do with success in computer science, engineering, finance, etc., and might have something to do with creating important startup technologies and inventions?

And the SAT doesn't even directly measure visual-spatial abilities, which are even more skewed toward men, and are also demonstrably critical in many areas of science and technology.

Do the mouthbreathers in the MIT administration think they can just wish this biology away?

Well, they can try, but Mother Nature is going to have the last say on that.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#311 - Wow. Next you'll be educating us on how white people are clearly superior to black people because their average SAT scores are higher. No one cares about your SAT scores once you get out into the real world.

-Asian-American who did not have a 1600 (and it was so long ago I don't remember what my scores were, but I know my verbal was higher than my math)

123/124, 129, 196, 209/210, 219, 238, 249, 250, 256, 258, 260, 267, 308, 309

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I have the funniest feeling that even at this stage there are those in the MIT administration who are aware that their female alumni just aren't paying off anything like the way their male alumni are. But I'm sure that that is one of those very closely guarded facts that won't be allowed to interfere with The Agenda.

We will never be told about that problem, no matter how severe it becomes. They will find a thousand ways to describe it that will never acknowledge the clear statistical message.

Ask yourself, how many big time startups have female MIT grads as founders, as opposed to male MIT grads?

Anonymous about 9 years ago


Oh, you're right, SAT scores don't mean anything -- that's why the most elite institutions don't care about them for admission, because they mean nothing in the larger world.

Oh, wait, actually, they DO care about it, don't they? In fact they care about it an awful lot.

Look, look at some of the studies done by SMPY and work on your ignorance. These scores, even at the stage of seventh grade have tremendous power -- far more than anything else -- to predict success in technology and science.

And of course, check the gender breakdown in the papers.

Beg, borrow, or steal a clue.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Great. Now a girl who may have thought a male-dominated university less than appealing can't take an online physics course. A mother can't learn in her free time. A working wife must drop her paycheck and go to MIT instead. And for what?

This isn't exactly a victory for feminism, but it is a victory for MIT's bank accounts.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am a professional woman who has worked in what is essentially a man's world for 35 years. When I trained in South Africa, there was a quota system for the admission of women to the medical school. During our years of training, female students were subject to jibes, blue jokes and comments which today would be deemed sexual harassment. While I do not condone sexual harassment in its true form, a great deal of what passes for sexual harassment in our PC world is petty. We could deal with school locker room jokes and jibes ourselves. I have enjoyed Professor Lewin's lectures and feel it is a tragedy that we will now be deprived of these great lectures. I sincerely hope that whoever reviewed this complaint is not putting politics or petty jealousies before common sense.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Watch out everyone: MIT is going through your offices

at night and blacking out Prof.Lewin's name in any physics books

you may have.

This is after they remove his books from the library and burned them....

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Boy, look at all the comments removed by the censors here.

Many, maybe most of those comments did little more than note that the difference between genders in scientific achievement might be based on biology.

This sort of primitive suppression of alternative hypotheses by outright censorship is what an institute supposedly devoted to science has come to?

What a disgrace!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Wow, given the comments that were censored here, I can see how far down the rabbit hole we've gone with political correctness at MIT.

I guess it's a good thing for Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, and fellow of Trinity College, and for Stephen Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, that they don't teach at MIT. Both of them argue strongly for the view that there are important differences between the genders in cognitive and personality traits based on biology and evolution.

They'd be unpersoned in a New York minute by the powers-that-be at MIT just for doing their science.

This is where we are, folks.

God help us.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

One of the comments that was censored did nothing more than argue that Rosalind Franklin was not the great scientist she's cracked up to be, and not in the ranks of Watson and Crick.

Even this we are not permitted to say here.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Speaking as an alum, a physics prof and educator, and someone who knew him from the department, I'm glad to see MIT move on. We don't know what happened; my experience with MIT administrators suggests they didn't take these actions lightly. Lewin was lucky to be in a position to have produced these videos and to have had jobs where he could hone his craft, but he is hardly the only person on Earth capable of delivering a good lecture on mechanics or electromagnetism. He had a big advantage in having a lot of support (#292 is right on) and also in having lectures already in circulation before OCW/EdX came along. As those of you slogging through courses may have noticed, you really learn this stuff by doing, not by watching, and even if he wrote all the testing materials for his courses (which I find doubtful), other people can do a good job with that stuff, too. The level of devotion to his courses has gotten kind of crazy.

For those of you very concerned about MIT removing the videos, or who felt you never had a good teacher until you saw these, I think this is a good opportunity to be asking what it is about the education system that made his lectures such an outlier. It is ridiculous to assume he is the only person capable of teaching what is relatively easy material. You should be asking: what is happening in hiring, administration, and assessment that makes a good instructor so apparently unusual? Why are so many profs, in so many fields, stringing together adjunct classes at a few grand each to make a living? There are thousands of un- and under-employed physicists who are also very capable teachers (often more so than higher tier profs, since teaching is their main focus). It would be nice if we could move our industry to value, reward, and measure teaching more effectively. There are few enough jobs we can demand good lecturing, good research, and good ethics of those who are employed!

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I'm thinking that with the anti-scientific attitude now regnant at MIT, classes should only assign Origin of the Species with trigger warnings.

God forbid that any female student might read about sexual selection and how the sexes differ in no small part because of it.

And maybe to make sure that no female student gets triggered, the MIT administration can do what really needs to be done here, and unperson Darwin.

He's always been an embarrassment to morally upright people.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Perhaps his 450 papers should be unpublished by the journals that published them in retrospective mistake?

Also, what if some embarrassing details emerge about deceased scholars? Should they be unpublished too? Or just their educational videos removed? Where do Feynman lectures fit in all this?

Claudio Felicioli about 9 years ago

I had the privilege and the pleasure to attend 8.01x and 8.02x.

I have always considered MIT the best academical institute in the world, but obviously I have overestimated the staff.. I'm not referring to the faculty staff, but to the managers.

I don't want to argue on the allegations, but removing the video lessons is really an idiotic response indeed.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Shame on Lewin for doing this behavior. Looks like I will have to rely on Feynman now.

Jan about 9 years ago

Just idiotic. Put the videos back on! I don't care about what your professor does in his free time. But I and many others need the videos.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Suppose his offense was both grievous and egregious, the equivalent of raping and butchering a child, then eating the remains on a live video feed. Would that be enough to justify MIT's response?

No. Not even Hitler's actions would justify burning his artwork. A zero-tolerance policy is nothing more than a childish response to a very adult problem.

People are flawed and do awful things. The adult response is to acknowledge that, to see the bad with the good, the whole as it is. An adult response would be to edit the videos and preface each of them with a statement indicating what he did and the actions MIT took as a result. Viewers could then see the whole as it is, a teacher who gave great lectures and did awful things.

That would be an educational and educated response.

Cristian Danciu about 9 years ago

What if someone will argue that Newton was actually a pedofil ? Probably MIT will kick Newton and his laws out from all MIT physics materials. WL, a 78 yr old man, was accused of sexual misconduct and MIT can be accused of scientific and moral misconduct. So, MIT, please put the videos back on and let the police to address the other issue.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

328 What he did was not illegal, it was just "rude." Hence the police can't get involved.

lex about 9 years ago

#327: Adults? Where can they be found? Can they even be defined anymore? Civilization is in an irremediable situation when the "Treason of the Intellectuals" develops into the "Treason of the Adults."

Cristian Danciu about 9 years ago

#329 So, they kicked him out for something which was not even illegal ? Anyway I am sorry about using the word "police" in this context. I do appreciate MIT , I do appreciate Walter Lewin and it would be very appreciated if MIT will put the online courses back on edX.

asb about 9 years ago

To those blaming MIT for removing the videos and calling it 'just PR bs' - what would you have them do? If MIT keeps the videos up on its websites - even after itself discovering evidence of harassment - and even one more student who discovers Lewin's lectures through this website is harassed by him again - won't MIT have knowingly abetted that? Nothing can be really deleted from the internet - it just doesn't work that way. So the videos will, I am sure, remain available elsewhere. So its not a loss of his work for all other current/future students. But I don't see any reason for MIT to maintain any association with him any more. And given that he is no longer an employee - this seems a proportionate response to me. For anything beyond this - victim has the option to take it to a court of law.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

And given Prof. Lewin is no longer an MIT employee, MIT is

not justified in their ridiculous actions against him.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Let me say that, in my opinion, after learning what the circumstances were:

there was no sexual harassment

Anonymous about 9 years ago

First, I think it is a mistake by MIT to use every sanction available as its first public action, even if it has made private warnings in the past. It leaves no room or incentive for apology and/or correction of behavior (assuing it occurred), and leaves the impression that everything is black or white without shades of grey. By using every arrow in its quiver, MIT leaves no room for itself to apply different sanctions in different circumstances.

Second, the secrecy surrounding the facts (which could come out without names) seems counter to the openness one expects in an academic environment. Reading the sexual harrassment policy (link under #150) I have a hard time envisioning any online-only harrassment which would justify every arrow from the quiver.

Third, I had Walter (no disrespect--that's what we all called him) in my Freshman year (he was just doing recitation then), worked with him in the Space Center labs, and had him as my thesis advisor back in the '60s and '70s. Nobody has mentioned it, so maybe I'm the only one to think this, but I think removing his email address and cutting contacts with (current and former) students is a mistake. Perhaps he should be told not to INITIATE such contact; however, I can see former students wanting to ask something about previous work (such as a thesis), or ask for a recommendation (or about one previously given). And what of a potential employer writing to the non-existent mailbox to verify a previously-given recommendation? I myself have been toying with a couple of ideas I wanted to bounce off of him at some point, but that seems like it can no longer happen now, and I haven't a clue where else I could go with them. There should be room for (and a method for) student-initiated contact.

I keep hoping that MIT has overreacted and will rethink things and undo some of the sanctions. And #334, I hope you are right.

Anonymous about 9 years ago


No worries! MIT is trying to rewrite history, but we can get around the totalitarian regime.

Give me a public PGP key and I can reply with Lewin's encrypted e-mail (he made a new one recently). Here's mine (I just made it)



Version: BCPG C# v1.6.1.0















Anonymous about 9 years ago

Nobody cares about the opinions of a bunch of STEM professors and alumnus. You guys lost control of MIT a while back and need to stop crying about changes you don't like.

MIT is going to be a safe place for women whether you like it or not. If you don't like it, then I suggest you move on, because this is how it is. The are other places you can go. We will no longer tolerate misogynistic thoughts and behavior on campus.

If you don't fit in with the culture that is being created, then you need to leave.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Lol! Your infantile, confrontational style reminds me of a prisoner in an insane asylum.

If you think someone who gets creeped out by a "sexist" or "racist" comment is in control of anything, you are quite naive.

You're not paying for MIT. Likely your parents are paying. Are you talented? Are you skilled? Wait till you get in the real world. Then find out how "powerful" your feminist ideals are.

Sure, maybe you'll get a comfy job as a "liberal correspondent" for TV news. Maybe you'll get a nice gig in Silicon Valley at a large equal opportunity tech company. And I truly wish you good luck at the job you get.

But will you be independent? Will you be happy? What if, one day, by mistake, you think something racist or misogynistic? You'll need to cleanse yourself of the horror. What if, one day, ten years in the future, a desirable potential mate (man/woman) comes to you, and sees your tortured soul? A person dependent on handouts from others loses his/her vitality quite quickly.

The only real way a hapless "social justice" advocate can get control of MIT (or any state) is by restricting personal freedom and burning the whole thing down. You've come a long way, and done quite a bit of damage in the process, but you can't quite burn it down, my friend. You are welcome to keep trying. The main person you hurt is yourself.

It's no coincidence that the state with the most dysfunctional government (California) is the one with the most innovation.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#337: What a strange and bizarre diatribe.

"We" (alumni?) never "lost control" of MIT. What do we have to do with this or Lewin's behavior?


It doesn't mean we have to applaud taking the videos down. It's a stupid response. They already fired the guy, publicly humiliating him, and took away his pension.

BTW, #337, if making MIT a "safe place" for leaning is paramount, maybe they should stop the underclassmen males from being hazed first before they worry about some comment a prof made to some non-MIT student who approached the prof on his private twitter account.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#337. The funny thing is by trying to create a safe place for women, you (a) reduce the academic prestige of MIT, and (b) increase rape.

Who created rape culture? Your ideology did, by promoting drunken hook-ups and censoring honest discussion about sex harassment/assault.

If inappropriate flirting with a student is punished as severely as raping the student, do you think that that will reduce rape or increase rape? Use your brain, you deluded Commie.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I enjoyed Prof. Walter Lewin's lectures in his edx courses on classical mechanics and electricity and magnetism. I came to know about him only after i enrolled his edx courses. fortunately i downloaded all his lectures in the above mentioned two courses. i think they are available on youtube and i feel nothing goes off the internet, once it is uploaded. so please dont worry, about missing his lectures. It is very sad that he really did such an "act". well, we guys do get attracted to women, but why be "pushy" and that too at a ripe age of 78 !!! MIT has done the right thing of removing his edx courses, but MIT also has the responsibility of replacing someone of his caliber to keep the show going. I have been looking forward to Prof. walter lewin's upcoming courses, which i now know will never come up. Well, "for the love of physics", MIT please find someone who can carry forward these planned courses in physics..

Vikram Dalal about 9 years ago

Probably jealousy works and Prof. walter lewin is "dead" for MIT but not for students of Physics all over the world.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I am a 20th century MIT grad but have never seen these videos nor do I know this professor emeritus nor the details of his actions. BUT, assuming that he did not live his entire life like this in terms of harassing behavior, what if it's the start of dementia? The first things to go are usually short term memory (can't learn new things but knows old things just fine - for a while) and inhibition (impulsiveness, inappropriate actions and statements, etc.) How horrible will life become if one accomplishes great or worthy things for most of one's life only to be condemned for all eternity because of something inappropriate that one does due to senility? And the problem is that highly educated people can pass a mental status test meant for average people just fine while they have lost much of their impulse control and may even show significant personality changes. Each person should think: How do I want my legacy tarnished or destroyed if I should ever commit a transgression while becoming demented that I will neither understand nor remember? This could be you in a few years.

Robert about 9 years ago

I recall a story told to me by the late great Harve Presnell. He said that during one of the meeting held before a film shoot a woman got on the stage and explained how their production company would not tolerate any sexual harassment of any type. Harve raised his hand and when she called on him he asked: "Does that mean I can't put my c__k on top of your head?" True story.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

#344 That's awesome. Presnell making fun of (female) mental illness :)

Anonymous about 9 years ago

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to get from #344's story. People should behave professionally when they are working. Making off-color jokes is unprofessional. I still think they over-reacted here, especially since they can fire Lewin and retain all of the taped videos.

I've been around people who say sexually inappropriate things in the workplace, though it was actually females who did it. It makes things awkward, but I wouldn't have advocated ending their career because of it.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

This whole thing reminds me that I had a vaguely similar experience at MIT almost 40 years ago. There was this well respected professor with appointments at both Harvard and MIT who led a non-credit seminar mostly for freshmen exploring a career path. It was one of those Art and Science of this or Introduction to that or Seminars in XYZ that lots of students take to see if theyre really interested in something. And the professor was just great. I really wanted to do that. So, about a year later, Im about to head across campus on a rainy day and there he is in his car, offering me a ride. I figure its got to be safe because hes my prof. Well, the ride started out OK, but after groping my thighs in a clearly sexual way, Im looking for a way out of this car. The first time traffic stopped, I open the door and Im gone. And nothing ever happened beyond that. Back then, everyone would have said that I led him on by getting into the car of an older man, but today, Im sure that I could have played the victim card just like if somebody today sexted me pictures of his junk. Or whatever.

But it doesnt end there. He was my only connection then other than an Aspergery grad student who wouldnt even make eye contact with me. If I went to this prof for career advice or a class, it would have said that I was taking him up on his invitation and lets hop into bed. Im sure you can imagine something, and I was having no part of that. But I wasnt confident enough to say lets start over you grope me again and Im reporting you. Were just going to be teacher and student now. So, I missed opportunities. I changed my major. I wound up spending more time at MIT and finally getting my degree, and then grad school, in what I really wanted to do which was his field - and now Im still doing that as my career.

Now this prof died over a decade ago. Hes got tons of papers and other things in Harvard and MIT libraries and archives. Would I gain anything but embarrassment by convincing MIT to trash his stuff because he groped me as a teenager? What if it had been last week instead of beyond the statute of limitations? I cant say, but I think theres value in those archives. Although its not like the physics videos, you cant throw away progress or revise history just because some guys a jerk. But you can support the students better, and that doesnt always mean revenge. Nobodys talking about that.

Anonymous about 9 years ago


Similar thing happened to me in the 1970s but I was a young male student and I got chatting to an older lady professor in psychology after a student dinner. She gave me a lift home, I was a little drunk but I actually ended up kissing her. I was disgusted with myself next morning, I couldn't recall how I'd been convinced to let her kiss me on the lips. I saw her several times after that but we never spoke, she looked a little ashamed, same as me. I was taking psychology as additional classes, and gave it up the following year.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

In Stalinist Soviet Union, if you were jealous of a co-worker or wanted his job, you could dispatch them to the GULAG to their death by writing a note to the authorities. In our country, we do not kill those we envy, we merely get them fired by using this or that PC ploy. So, we still have it better, although, human nature being what it is, the main principle stays the same.

Henry about 9 years ago

Picasso was a notorious womanizer.

Einstein treated his first wife cruelly and is said to have been a womanizer. Schrodinger had odd ways with women.

Should all their works be withdrawn from pubic use ?

I don't know what Professor Lewin did or did not do and in

what context and as an earlier poster mentioned - we all begin to do odd things when we get elderly.

It would be helpful to the discussion if we had a far better

understanding of what happened.

Should the videos have been withdrawn ?

Should any textbooks/articles he has written be withdrawn ?

I had female and male professors make "moves" on me.

Welcome to the real world - if your boss likes you for

more reasons than your work justifies - you may be promoted

faster and higher than you deserve.

Bill Clinton did far worse than Professor Lewin and yet

he remained President - is he banned from MIT and all

other College campuses ?

Was there no better way to handle this whole matter ?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Once upon a time there was Papal Inquisition. Once upon a time there was Spanish Inquisition. Now we have a new Inquisition upon us. The more things change the more they stay the same. However, losing one's honor and pension is not as bad as as being burnt at the stake. So there is still room to fall.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

fyi, an iphone auto-corrects misspelled :thinking" into "queefing" pretty easily.

Jerome about 9 years ago

Remarkable. Dr. Lewin has been tried and found guilty of unspeakable crimes, by a secret tribunal whose verdict may not be appealed. Literally unspeakable. Not only is no evidence necessary, no accusation is necessary. We are simply told that he did something bad (although apparently no crime was committed), and he is a bad man, and we are expected to believe it. I am fairly certain he is a better man than everyone else involved in this wretched farce.

Anonymous about 9 years ago

Star chamber justice. Just like at UVa. And just like at UVa, punish the innocent (fraternities and sororities for a sexual assault a party when there was no party detailed in a implausible story). Punish students in India and China who have been using his lectures.

Good job, PC police.

Indranil Majumdar about 9 years ago

I have attended Sir Walter Lewin's lectures on EDx which are exceptional...Even Alan Turing was convicted of Homosexuality and was later posthumously pardoned by the Queen.

Let's not mix Sir Walter Lewin's contribution to education and his viral videos..MIT may severe relations but should restore his invaluable lectures on Phisiccs as sooon as possible and be logical not to withdraw hos Professor Emertius status..Loos at his contribution to MIT and his thousands of students since 1966..

Indranil Majumdar

IEEE Kolkata Section


Charles Cato about 9 years ago

This is absurd. The guy is over 75 years old and a brilliant Physics Professor. I recall one time in which he described infrared radiation in describing the heat from a 100 watt light bulb and claiming the warmth spreads over a couple in an embrace was a good thing. Is that sexual harassment?

Anonymous about 9 years ago

It seems like MIT administration has failed spectacularly at this. They should give some proper reasoning as to why this man's great educational materials need to be destroyed.

As an aside, what exactly is "online sexual harrasment", I can't imagine such an act to be so traumatizing that could substantiate such a knee jerk reaction. Hell even if Lewin went on a rampage and killed a dozen people, there is no reason to remove the videos for the same reason you wouldn't remove his publications, books, and other contributions to society and the scientific community...

Anonymous over 8 years ago

"When you're fresh meat, kill and throw them something fresher."