MIT Town Hall: A Virtual Community Gathering

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

As prepared for delivery

To all of you, greetings from Gray House! 

These past few weeks have demonstrated that we are all incredibly interdependent. We need each other! Yet we don’t always know what’s happening in other parts of MIT. 

So, this town hall attempts to allow every one of us – students, staff, postdocs, faculty – to learn what others, elsewhere at MIT, are dealing with, in this difficult time. 

Covid-19 is challenging all of us. In that global experience ­– in the disruption and uncertainty – we are all united. But there is an opposing reality too: These circumstances are hitting some much harder than others. 

For some, the personal challenges are already painful: medically, financially, academically, emotionally. 

Some are experiencing tremendous pressures around family. Others are finding the isolation particularly hard. You may be concerned about your job, your health, your health insurance, your education, your research or your career. Some of you are working 16-hour days to help MIT, and the world, respond to Covid-19. And some are suffering the added pain of discrimination and false claims about the virus, on social media and in real life.

Most of us are facing the challenges of our new, confined, “work-from-home” lives, while some have the virus yourselves, or are caring for someone who does, or are grieving the loss of someone you loved.

In the face of this intense unevenness in our individual experiences, I believe we must also be united in empathy and compassion.

More than ever, we must make time to imagine, and to ask about, each other’s burdens.

We need to remember that, for absolutely every one of us, the scale and intensity of this problem are new, and we are all learning. 

We need to encourage each other, and be patient with each other, so that, in the end, we will remember this period not only as a time of disruption and difficulty, but of human connection and open-hearted kindness.

This crisis is also challenging MIT as an institution with a long tradition of service to the nation and the world. 

In this case, our service began with an enormous and historic collective effort: the effort that all of you made to increase physical distancing and slow the spread of 
the virus. And it continues through the essential personnel who are still at work at MIT: our dining workers, our custodians, our power plant staff, the MIT police and more. We take immense inspiration from these heroes.

The long emergency ahead will demand that each of us, and all of us, continue to respond with the energy, inventiveness and sense of service that the world expects from MIT.  In this mission, every one of us has a part to play, and we are all in this together, as one MIT.

Now, as we get started: We only have time for the most frequently asked questions. But we read them all! And we will keep working to get you the information you need!

Today, we will use this town hall to introduce you to some of the leaders who will be communicating regularly with you through this crisis. 

We want to share how we are thinking about the big, urgent questions before us, and how we are trying to make decisions in a situation that is shifting so rapidly.

In future town halls, we will explore our evolving plans for the summer and fall, as well as the strategic impact of the Covid crisis on MIT for 2021 and beyond.