Ad hoc faculty committees formed in response to MIT’s Epstein ties release reports

Reif creates advisory ad hoc group ‘as MIT determines how best to implement’ committee recommendations

The Ad Hoc Faculty Committees on Guidelines for Outside Engagements and Review of MIT Gift Processes submitted final reports, Chair of the Faculty Rick Danheiser and Provost Martin Schmidt PhD ’88 wrote in an email to the MIT community Jan. 11.

Danheiser convened the Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements Fall 2019 in response to revelations concerning the involvement of Jeffrey Epstein; Schmidt convened the Committee on Gift Processes around the same time. Both committees began work immediately on recommending new guidelines for the Institute’s relationships with funding sources. 

The committees released draft reports last September, along with an open invitation to the MIT community to submit comments.

The report from the Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements describes the drafting and revision process with an emphasis on community engagement. The committee collected an initial round of feedback Fall 2019 via “campus conversations, white papers, office hours, and emails,” organizing 15 campus conversations for faculty, staff, students, and alumni and 12 hours of office hours. 

The committee held a community forum following the release of the draft report and set up an email address to receive comments. The comments were “largely positive, thanking the committees for their work,” with “feedback, where appropriate and relevant” integrated into the report.

The report outlines nine core values that form the basis of the guidelines for decision-making and describes the guidelines and “tools,” or accompanying infrastructure, for enacting these guidelines in detail. 

The report from the Committee on Gift Processes describes a similar value system and decision making process while underscoring specific “tool” questions addressing violations of national security or law, attempts to restrict academic freedom, conflicts with MIT’s core values, and transparency about gift acceptance decisions.

The report recommends instating a Gift Acceptance Committee to advise MIT leadership regarding gift acceptance and naming and to record recommendations to create precedents for future decisions.

President Reif “created an ad hoc group to advise him as MIT determines how best to implement the committees’ recommendations, with a particular focus on the charge to a new Gift Acceptance Committee,” according to the email. The advisory group will meet several times this month to converge on an implementation plan and will meet in a few months’ time to review the committee’s early efforts.