About the ICEO

MIT’s Institute Community & Equity Office

The Institute Community and Equity Office is MIT’s home for amplifying MIT’s sense of community, inspiring meaningful conversations, building skills, and supporting new inclusion initiatives. We convene and collaborate with students, staff, faculty, and postdocs on programs, projects, and initiatives that cross disciplines, departments, and identities. The ICEO is a steward and advocate for MIT’s shared values: excellence and curiosity, openness and respect, and belonging and community.

The acronym ICEO can refer to either the Office or to Institute Community and Equity Officer. The Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response office is responsible for compliance related to discrimination and discriminatory harassment, including for sexual misconduct under Title IX federal regulations; affirmative action is managed by MIT Human Resources.

MIT Building 10 Dome

How we define our work

How have the particular challenges and opportunities of our own backgrounds shaped our paths and attitudes, our advantages and disadvantages? How have other people’s experiences affected them, and how do these factors play out in how we live and work together?

As individuals, we must accept responsibility for identifying and eliminating behaviors and habits that undermine the sense of belonging for any member of our community—while committing ourselves to maintaining an environment where we can freely and respectfully express diverging views.

As an organization, the ICEO aims to create and institutionalize policies, systems, and behaviors that promote equity, value differences of opinion and origin, and establish conditions for productive disagreement that unite all of us in service to the Institute’s mission. To this end, we organize our inquiry and actions around three strategic priorities:

  • Belonging: MIT will cultivate a community in which people feel connected to each other, share a sense of purpose, and support each individual’s freedom to be themselves and respectfully express their views. By encouraging empathy, civil discourse, inclusion, and engagement, we will build on our historic strengths as a problem-solving institution and contribute to society’s collective well-being. 
  • Achievement: MIT will make equity central to how opportunities are presented and assessments are conducted for all members of the community while ensuring the highest standards of excellence. We will minimize barriers to achievement and chart equitable pathways to success for everyone. 
  • Composition: MIT can only fulfill its mission by serving as a magnet for a wide range of talented people. The composition of our community, and of our leadership, should reflect a commitment to diversity. Establishing objectives, defining steps for achieving them, and improving processes for collecting more detailed identity data will empower us to see ourselves more clearly and make progress.

We have adopted these terms—belonging, achievement, and composition—because we believe they better reflect how MIT defines community, its focus, and its values than the more commonly used inclusion, equity, and diversity.

How we define community

MIT’s on-campus population is made up of roughly 4,600 undergraduate students, 7,300 graduate students, 14,000 staff, 1,500 postdocs, and 1,000 faculty; Institute alumni number approximately 145,000. We come from all 50 US states and every country in the world, and we represent a broad range of faiths, races, ethnicities, ages, political views, and socioeconomic backgrounds. MIT’s sense of community is defined by how all of us treat each other and by the culture and climate that result from our interactions.

To achieve the sense of community we deserve, we must look inward to understand what we can do now, we must look back to learn from our successes and our missteps, and we must look forward to achieve what we aspire to become. If we are not trying to create a culture of excellence in which all members of the community can do their best work, now and in the future, we are not fulfilling MIT’s mission.

We believe diversity refers to the sum of social, cultural, and individual human attributes represented within a group and how these groups work together. These attributes include (but are not limited to) age, class, disability, educational background, ethnicity, gender expression, gender identity, geographical location, immigration status, income, marital status, national origin, parental status, political views, pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, work experiences, and veteran status. These categories are not always fixed and often overlap.

At MIT, as in the United States as a whole, diversity is a fact about our community, present and future. That diversity of backgrounds, views, and talents is essential to MIT’s strength; our differences challenge us to broaden and deepen our vision, to reexamine standing assumptions and ask questions we have not asked before. But our differences can also create points of pain and friction. Attending carefully to our diversity is a way of promoting a culture of respect, civility, and empathy so that all members of our community can thrive. That is our goal.

Diversity is not a proxy for underrepresentation. The Institute currently identifies members of a “racial/ ethnic underrepresented” group as: “a U.S. Citizen who self-identifies as Black/ African-American, Hispanic/ Latinx, Native American or Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander.” While the ICEO aspires to improve circumstances for people from underrepresented groups at MIT, we take a broader view of diversity. 

We must revisit many of our current assumptions, definitions, and practices around underrepresentation. For example, we must use a broader set of attributes—including those in the definition above, and others—to understand the composition of our community. We must also attend to the impact of long-standing practices, such as the fact that MIT records gender as only male or female; these binary categories line up with those in coordinated national and peer-institution reporting systems, but they may no longer serve our community well in other contexts. And we must better understand composition in context: across the different segments of our community, and within the specific academic, administrative, and research units where we learn and work.

MIT must be able to identify and address the concerns of any community that is subject to identity-based discrimination or harassment, regardless of its proportion at MIT (e.g., Asians and Asian-Americans or Native Americans), or for which there is not reliable institutional data (disabled, LGBTQ+, veterans, and others). Additionally, MIT must enable meaningful disaggregations of constituencies within communities that are often treated as monolithic (Asian, Hispanic/ Latinx, “international”).