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 Lily Tsai will lead 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.
John Tomasi, Melissa Nobles, and John Dozier
At a reception after the first event in a new series, Dialogues Across Difference: Building Community at MIT. Speaker John Tomasi, MIT Chancellor Melissa Nobles, and former Institute Community and Equity Officer John Dozier.



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

  • The Office of the General Counsel has begun a process to inventory MIT’s policies related to free expression.

Creating new opportunities to engage

  • The Institute Community and Equity Office has taken the lead in developing and launching 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. The inaugural event in this series was held on March 22, with guest speaker John Tomasi, president of Heterodox Academy; a recording of the event is available. Malick Ghachem of MIT’s History section will be the series’s second speaker in fall 2023.
  • The ICEO is also organizing a series of roundtable lunch discussions around issues of free expression.
  • The Division of Student Life has piloted a series of community conversations among students and has initiated a new series of conversations with heads of house on freedom of expression.
  • DSL and the ICEO are also planning a summer retreat to better coordinate relevant student-facing programs and efforts across the Institute. Their goal is to ensure that MIT students have the skills needed to build healthy relationships, engage in difficult conversations, and navigate conflict with others.

Roadmap of next steps

  • Pending advancement of the actions above

Last updated 4/26/23