Ad Hoc Committee on Arts, Culture, and DEI

Activating the Arts and Humanities

On July 1, 2020, the Institute outlined the steps it will take to address systemic problems regarding racial equity at the Institute. As part of the commitment to confront our history, challenge common assumptions, and incorporate previously marginalized voices, MIT called for an ad hoc committee to activate the arts and humanities in this effort.

The Report

The ad hoc committee submitted its report in April 2022, making several recommendations, some immediate and some longer term. These include:

  • Creating and sustaining an arts festival
  • Increasing support for student groups in the performing and visual arts
  • Diversifying MIT’s public art collection
  • Developing and enhancing tours of the MIT campus 
  • Evaluating the legacy of MIT’s third president, Francis Amasa Walker, and the building named in his honor (Building 50)
The Alchemist
The Alchemist


To translate these recommendations into action, in December 2022, Provost Cynthia Barnhart announced the creation of a DEI Arts and Culture Implementation Committee. Co-chaired by the ICEO and the Associate provost for the Arts, this committee will coordinate the efforts of four working groups corresponding to the first four recommendations above. Efforts to advance a study on Amasa Walker are on a separate path, under the direction of the ICEO and faculty from MIT’s History section. 

Leadership and charges for each of the four working groups:

Arts festival

  • Azra Aksamija, Associate Professor of Art, Culture, and Technology in the Department of Architecture
  • Marcus Thompson, Institute Professor, Music and Theater Arts

MIT will publicly celebrate the artistic accomplishment of its students, staff, postdocs, and faculty, and showcase the dazzling range of their cultures. This working group will organize an arts festival designed to celebrate our pluralism—the strength we gain from being a single community reflecting a mosaic of perspectives and cultures through a wide range of performances and other artistic expression, potentially including music, dance, drama, poetry, film/video, multimedia, visual arts, and more. The group will also explore options for a permanent, recurring event on a two- or three-year rhythm.  

Student groups

  • Jimmy Doan, Associate Dean and Senior Director, Office of Student Wellbeing
  • Rima Das, Graduate Student, Department of Mechanical Engineering

The students who make time amidst the pressures of MIT to pour themselves into the arts benefit not only themselves and their peers but all of us. MIT student arts and culture groups urgently need more support, both in terms of funding and access to space. This working group will design programs and strategies to accomplish this goal directly, as well as in coordination with the charges of other working groups, such as the arts festival, to offer a tremendous benefit to the entire community.

Public art

  • Yolande Daniels, Associate Professor of Architecture in the Department of Architecture
  • Paul Ha, Director, List Visual Arts Center

To properly reflect and celebrate the diversity of today’s MIT community and maintain the excellence of the Institute’s reputation as a supporter of public art, MIT will make a deliberate and sustained effort to diversify our collection by all aspects of identity, including gender, nationality, and race. The group will also consider how to extend this recommendation to architecture commissions, and the commission of temporary public artworks or performances designed to engage, reflect, and celebrate a wide range of communities.

Campus tour

  • Emma Teng, T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations in the History section
  • Caroline A. Jones, Professor in the History, Theory, and Criticism section in the Department of Architecture; Associate Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning

MIT welcomes hundreds of tourists and other visitors every day. This working group will propose how the Institute transforms this natural flow of curious minds into an educational opportunity by developing a campus tour that tells a complete and inclusive version of MIT’s history. The tour will bring to light hidden figures and forgotten episodes from MIT’s past, highlighting dimensions of our history that have been disregarded or erased—and celebrating members of our community, past and present, whose accomplishments and contributions have been neglected or unrecognized.

For more information about the implementation committee’s work, you may reach the committee directly at