May/June 2023Vol.XXXV No. 4

Congratulations to our Graduates of the Years of the Pandemic

The Editorial Board of the MIT Faculty Newsletter

MIT’s Faculty values and takes particular pride in the accomplishments of your Class of 2023, who have overcome unprecedented stresses in the path to graduation. Many of us find it hard to imagine the difficulties you and your classmates have navigated through during these past years of the pandemic. As you have learned and grown under stress, continuing to absorb and generate knowledge and new insights, many faculty have also been influenced and impressed. Your future contributions to your communities and to society will be among the most gratifying outcomes of our academic efforts.

Teaching and mentoring students under these conditions has required development of new skills and commitments, by both students and faculty. When successful this has been a source of satisfaction to many faculty, but we hope that adaption to the pandemic stresses and limitations will not be a new normal. Moreover, the values of scientific investigation and assessment, previously taken for granted, have now become arenas for contention and even denial. Defending these values will require the urgent involvement of us all.

The Class of 2023 will be entering a world of considerable uncertainty and an increased level of social and political polarization. During the Trump administration, many of you joined efforts to protect international members of our community from the threat of exclusion or deportation. You became attentive to issues such as immigration, climate change, nuclear disarmament, the reduction of global poverty, and the need to protect fundamental democratic rights. Many of you joined or supported the Women’s March, the March for Science, and the March for Climate. Many participated in the 2020 Presidential election as your first engagement with the electoral arena.

During your time here, the campus experienced a revival in student engagement. Examples include the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign; the continuing opposition to MIT’s agreements with the Saudi Arabian monarchy; the campus die-in led by Black students; the protest and counter forum to Henry Kissinger’s role as spokesperson for ethics in artificial intelligence; the activities of MIT Students Against War; and the opposition expressed to the Supreme Court overturning of Roe vs. Wade, as well as other expressions of social, economic, and political concerns.

Sadly, the outbreak of war in Ukraine, with its effects on world food and energy supplies, and increased risk of the use of nuclear weapons, has marred the local easing of threat from the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope you will resist efforts to return to Cold War relations with Russia, China, and other nations. You will thus have to take more seriously your responsibilities as citizens to ensure that our nation’s actions in the world increase the prospects of peace and prosperity for the world’s peoples, rather than undermining them.

We on the Faculty have watched and supported the burgeoning of your many talents, your creative ambitions, your resilience in the face of setbacks, your thoughtful and quirky self-expression, and your creative and entrepreneurial energy. We hope that, as your individual paths unfold, you will put your powers to work on solving some of the problems that confront us all, and on making our society more responsibly productive and more supportive of those in need. On behalf of the entire Faculty, we wish the Class of 2023 vision, strength, commitment, wisdom, and success, in addressing the unique challenges we will all face together.