Several MIT Turing Award winners endorse Biden for presidency

Liskov: international students studying in US are ‘very important driver’ of technology

24 Turing Award winners, including five MIT computer science professors, endorsed Joe Biden for the Nov. 3 presidential election in a statement Sept. 18. The MIT computer science faculty who joined the endorsement are Professors Shafi Goldwasser, Butler Lampson, Barbara Liskov, Ronald Rivest, and Michael Stonebraker.

According to the Association for Computing Machinery, Turing Award winners are selected for their “contributions of a technical nature to the computing community.”

The Turing Award winners’ endorsement states that “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris listen to experts before setting public policy,” which is “essential when science and technology may help with many problems facing our nation today.” 

The endorsement writes that “information technology is thoroughly globalized,” citing international students in U.S. computer science departments and “international collaboration” on open source projects. “Computer Science is at its best when its learnings and discoveries are shared freely in the spirit of progress. These core values helped make America a leader in information technology.”

Stonebraker said in an interview with The Tech that President Donald Trump’s “anti-science” positions on issues such as COVID-19 and climate change are “unacceptable.”

Stonebraker also noted the contrast between MIT as an institution that “believes in science” and Trump as an individual who “totally rejects science.”

Liskov said in an interview with The Tech that international students who study in the U.S. are “a very important driver” of technology.

Both Liskov and Stonebraker said that they head computing research groups at MIT with a significant proportion of international students.

Liskov said that she signed the endorsement due to the Trump administration’s perceived “lack of understanding” about the benefits international students bring to the U.S. Liskov added that having the “best possible people” is the “best way to compete” with other countries in scientific and technological progress.

Stonebraker said that the U.S. benefits from international students who come for their education and then “tend to stay.” He noted that the U.S.’s pull of the “best and brightest” computer science students has “enhanced [the country’s] gene pool.”

The New York Times reported Sept. 18 that four of the Turing winners who signed the endorsement said in an interview that President Trump’s “restrictive” policies on immigration are harmful to computing.

MIT and Harvard sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after ICE announced July 6 that international students with F-1 visas could not take a fully online course load and remain in the U.S. for the fall. DHS and ICE rescinded the policy directive July 14.

Stonebraker said that “the new visa restrictions” enacted by the Trump administration have caused many Chinese students at MIT to “struggle.”

Stonebraker added that he is “nervous” that under Trump’s immigration policies, the U.S. may lose “technical domination,” and that to avoid “negative consequences,” the next president must prevent the U.S. from losing the technological “arms race.”