Welcoming the MIT Values Statement

April 12, 2022

To the members of the MIT community,

More than a year ago, 22 members of our community took up a challenging piece of work: They set out to create a values statement that could reflect MIT’s distinctive character and speak to all of us, in every role.

The assignment sprang from the recommendations of the Suri and Fisher committees and of the NASEM working groups; they argued that articulating a set of shared values that express how we aspire to live and work together would help reknit the fabric of our community.

Today, we write with enthusiasm to share the Values Statement Committee’s final products:

  • The MIT values statement. Framed by the phrases “Excellence and Curiosity,” “Openness and Respect,” “Belonging and Community,” it will now live on MIT’s “About” page side by side with the Institute’s mission statement.
  • And the committee's report, which details what the group learned from its extensive outreach to and input from the community. It also suggests practical ideas for infusing the values statement in the life of MIT.

What a values statement isn’t – and what it is

As the report makes clear, the values statement is not an attempt to restate MIT’s policies on conduct and community standards, nor a pledge to be signed, submitted and enforced. As the committee explains, “no one expects the values statement to serve as a checklist or intends it as a hammer.”

Rather, it expresses a promise we make to ourselves and to each other about the kind of community we aim to create together.

All of us, in every role, make daily decisions large and small. The statement offers a shared foundation for grounding those decisions, a touchstone for how we aspire to be as we pursue MIT’s mission.

In other words, responsibility for living up to and fostering these values belongs to all of us.

Commitment from senior leadership

“All of us” certainly includes those of us signing this letter – MIT’s president, provost and chancellor. Together with the Institute’s other senior leaders, we embrace this statement of MIT’s values. We intend to use the values as a guide in the execution of our responsibilities, and in the work of Academic Council.

We hope and expect that leaders and individuals across MIT – whether students, staff, postdocs or faculty – will do the same.

Making the values statement a fixture in the community will take time. Some elements, such as incorporating the values statement into orientation events and creating a communications campaign, will roll out with the fall semester.

To build momentum and a sense of shared ownership now, we will proceed with several steps:

  • To foster broad ownership and engagement, we challenge the faculty officers, department heads, student officers, unit managers, research group leaders, academic advisors and others to celebrate and foster the values in their own areas – and inspire those they lead and work with to do the same.
  • To inspire creative approaches for how to elevate and celebrate these values at MIT, we invite anyone in the community to submit a proposal to the next cycle of the MindHandHeart’s Community Innovation Fund, which will open on September 19th. Stay tuned for more information over the summer – and we encourage you to start developing your ideas now. If you would like to brainstorm in advance, feel free to reach out by email to mindhandheart@mit.edu
  • This spring, working with five units across MIT, the MIT Center for Constructive Communication will pilot RealTalk@MIT, a series of small-group facilitated conversations. Using the values statement as a starting point for dialogue, the project will gather and analyze honest perspectives from staff, students, postdocs and faculty about their personal experiences, generating important new insights for MIT’s work on culture and values. We look forward to early lessons from RealTalk@MIT and a broader roll-out in the fall.

On free expression – more to come

A final note: The values statement includes a clear declaration around openness, free expression and respect. However, the Working Group on Free Expression will share a more expansive report and recommendations on these themes in coming months.

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As we have learned from the committee’s leaders, a deep strength of the values statement is that the process of making the statement embodied the values that it celebrates.  

For this terrific demonstration of Institute values in action – and for producing this elegant statement of lasting value to MIT – we are grateful to all the members of the Values Statement Committee. We offer special thanks to the co-chairs, Dan Hastings SM '78, PhD '80, professor and AeroAstro department head, and Tracy Gabridge '88, deputy director of the MIT Libraries, for their deft leadership of this important work.

May we all take inspiration from their example!

With admiration and gratitude,

L. Rafael Reif, President
Cynthia Barnhart, Provost
Melissa Nobles, Chancellor