Free Expression

Statement and report

In February 2023, the MIT faculty’s approval of a statement on freedom of expression and academic freedom became final for the Institute.

The statement and its accompanying report were produced by an ad hoc working group convened in January 2022. Their report offers a range of “suggestions aimed at addressing some of the misunderstandings that have arisen over the purpose and place of free expression on our campus.”

Provost Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor Melissa Nobles, and Faculty Chair Mary Fuller are leading the Institute in the implementation of the working group’s report. Their initial areas of focus are:

  • Reviewing MIT’s existing policies on academic freedom and free expression (in Policies and Procedures and the Mind and Hand Book) according to our standard processes and determining what changes if any may be necessary to bring them in line with the final statement.
  • Creating new opportunities to engage and inspire community members to learn about, practice, and model the skills to confidently, constructively, respectfully express ourselves—and listen to each other—across differences.
  • Charging a team, with broad community representation, to review and reflect on the recommendations in the working group’s report and provide a roadmap of best next steps.


As President Kornbluth noted in her letter to the community: “For this statement to truly take root in and advance the interests of our community, we can’t just post it and hope for the best.” Offices and individuals across the institute are collaborating to implement the statement of principle around freedom of expression for the Institute:

Review of existing policies

  • MIT has updated its policies on public postering; the Office of the General Counsel continues to review other free expression-related policies.

Creating new opportunities to engage

  • The Institute Community and Equity Office developed and launched Dialogues Across Difference: Building Community at MIT, a series of guest lectures and campus conversations that offer a meaningful public forum and focal point to encourage community members to speak openly and honestly about freedom of expression, race, meritocracy, and the intersections and potential conflicts among these issues.
  • Malick W. Ghachem (History) has started a new first-year seminar, “Free Expression, Pluralism, and the University.” This subject explores the intersection of free expression, academic freedom, and universities’ commitment to a diverse and inclusive learning environment. Students will have an opportunity to design their own free-expression statements and propose administrative, curricular, and other reforms consistent with their visions of the future of the university.
  • The MIT LIbraries and History at MIT have launched Conversations on Academic Freedom and Expression (CAFE), a new on-campus series of lectures and conversations.
  • Alex Byrne (Linguistics and Philosophy), Anne McCants (History, Concourse Director), Linda Rabieh (Concourse), and Brad Skow (Linguistics and Philosophy) have engaged in a new two-year project: Civil Discourse in the Classroom and Beyond. The project has two core components: a speaker series open to the MIT community, and seminars in Concourse where students discuss freedom of expression and develop skills for successfully engaging in civil discourse.
  • The Student Belonging Coalition is developing a new initiative in DSL to foster an environment where our students feel like they belong and are able to freely express themselves.

Roadmap of next steps

  • In October, President Kornbluth announced the formation of a new Committee on Academic Freedom and Campus Expression (CAFCE). A subcommittee of the Faculty Policy Committee, the CAFCE will serve as a community resource to develop a campus expression roadmap and propose practical steps to advance the recommendations of the report of the MIT Ad Hoc Working Group on Free Expression; here is their full charge.

    CAFCE will be co-chaired by Anette “Peko” Hosoi, associate chair of the faculty and Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Michael Sipser, former dean of science and Donner Professor of Applied Mathematics. The committee’s full roster will include students and faculty as well as staff from the Office of the Provost, Division of Student Life, and Institute Community and Equity Office.

Last updated 11/3/23