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Principles & Values Guiding Team 2020’s Work

Below is a list of principles and values that have and will continue to guide our actions in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We note at the outset that these cannot all be satisfied in the absolute. Moreover, many decisions require judgments to be made that balance some principles and values against others.

We will remain focused on accomplishing MIT’s mission to a high standard of excellence:

The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges. MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

We will aspire to the same level of excellence in accomplishing this mission, in terms of the quality of our educational offerings and research outputs, and the support that we provide to our community while accepting that compromises will be required in these exceptional times.

Principles & Values

Community health and welfare
While continuing to pursue our mission, we recognize that, in this unprecedented time, we must take special steps in prioritizing the health and welfare of our MIT community, and the health and welfare of the broader Boston/Cambridge communities. This is, in fact, an embodiment of the last sentence of our mission statement: working wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

Expert guidance
In making judgments about the health and welfare of our community and others, we will be guided by our campus medical, emergency management, and environmental, health, and safety faculty and staff experts; by appropriate external experts; and by local, state, and federal governments. We are an institution committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges. We will rely on these commitments to make informed judgments.

We will seize this opportunity to provide local, national, and global leadership to help chart the course for our institution and society through this crisis. MIT leadership has never been more needed, and MIT is at its very best when engaged in solving complex problems in service of humankind.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion
The diversity of our students, staff, and faculty is a quality that informs our best teaching, learning, research, and decision-making. It is important to maintain an Institute ethos that ensures that every community member is valued, connected, and feels a deep sense of belonging. We recognize that there are members of our community who have been, or will be, disproportionately impacted by this crisis for any number of reasons. As such, we will focus on addressing access and opportunity through an equity lens.

Compassion, empathy, and respect
Our decisions and actions will treat people with dignity and kindness, respect their privacy, and aim to comfort and care for our community members in need. Where possible, we will seek to mitigate the financial and welfare impacts of this crisis on those members of our MIT community (staff, students, and faculty) who are most in need of help, while recognizing that this must ultimately be balanced against broader financial sustainability goals for the Institute.

Adherence to our community expectations, policies, and standards
In all cases, we will expect members of our community to continue to adhere to our policies and standards of conduct.

Financial sustainability
We recognize that the long-term ability of MIT to accomplish its mission rests on financial sustainability. This crisis has significant short-term and long-term financial impacts. We will have to make decisions to mitigate these impacts that we would not otherwise choose to make, but that are necessary for maintaining the long-term viability of the Institute. In making these decisions, we will rely on the principles and values outlined here, but also on the principle that there is a shared responsibility across all of MIT, among those who are able, to contribute to addressing the financial needs. However, despite financial constraints, we will not stop investing in efforts that can more strongly position us for the uncertain future ahead, or help support those experiencing severe financial distress.

Access to campus
The physical campus is an asset that must be allocated in a way that best supports MIT’s mission while adhering to our principles and values. Decisions about who should have access to the physical MIT campus will be based on need in the context of accomplishing our mission, and will be grounded in principles of safety, equity, and transparency.

Qualities of the decision-making process
Whenever possible, we will consider stakeholder views, inputs, and impacts. However, we recognize that in some cases, requirements for a timely response to this evolving crisis may require our institutional leaders to act with less consultation and feedback. Others in our organization may have to act without the usual levels of oversight. However, we will all do our best to adopt the same levels of feedback and oversight that we would expect in ordinary times. And regardless of how the decisions are made, we will always seek to clearly and transparently communicate the decision-making process (who is making the decisions, how, and by when), as well as the final decisions and their rationale.

Being flexible in an uncertain and rapidly changing environment
There is so much that we don’t know—or that is difficult to predict—regarding this rapidly evolving pandemic (both the health impacts and the rate of scientific and technological progress). While we would like to provide assurances and finality about any number of things (e.g., when will the physical campus open and to whom?), delaying decision-making (or revisiting decision-making in light of changing drivers) can be helpful, and sometimes necessary, to preserve potentially valuable options for the future. Further, in decisions to decrease the density of the population on campus, we should be aggressive due to the exponential nature of the phenomena underlying the crisis. And in decisions to increasethe density of the population on campus, we should be cautious and deliberate so that the health and safety of our community, and those around us, can be protected.

Community views: Key guiding principles & values

Based upon the online feedback form and the charrettes, MIT community members shared their views on the most important guiding principles and values: respectively, via the form,  “accomplishing MIT’s mission” and “community health and wellbeing” and via the charrettes, “diversity, equity, and inclusion” and “community health and welfare.”