May/June 2024Vol. XXXVI No. 5

I. Congratulations to Grads and Families II: Resolution in Support of the FNL III: Revised Policies & Procedures; Editorial Board Election; Clarification

The Editorial Board of the MIT Faculty Newsletter

All of you in the Class of 2024 started your college years in the midst of the worst pandemic of modern times, and have had to overcome unprecedented stresses on your path to graduation. We salute your resilience and commitment as you navigated around and through the daunting challenges and dilemmas of the pandemic years. The growth you have experienced has prepared you for continued learning, discovery, invention and creation, even in turbulent times. Your future contributions to your communities and to society will be among the most gratifying outcomes of our academic efforts together.

Teaching and mentoring students under these conditions has required development of new skills and practices, by both students and faculty. When successful, this has been a source of satisfaction – but we sincerely hope that adaption to pandemic stresses and limitations will not be a recurring normal.

The Class of 2024 will be entering a world of considerable uncertainty, and an increased level of social and political polarization. During the Trump administration, the values of scientific investigation and assessment, previously taken for granted, became arenas for contention and even denial – and the intensity of disagreement has only increased since. Defending these values will require the urgent involvement of us all.      

Many of you participated in the 2020 US Presidential election as your first engagement with the electoral arena. Over the past four years, many of you became attentive to pervasive issues such as climate change, foreign wars, global poverty, challenges to fundamental democratic rights, and also the roles such issues play in population migrations.

Unfortunately, as the pandemic came under control with the development of effective vaccines, other large problems continued to emerge. Examples include the exacerbated dangers and manifestations of climate change, the pressures on women subsequent to the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, as well as other expressions of social, economic, and political concerns.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the accompanying destruction and death, the effects on world food and energy supplies, and the increased risk of the use of nuclear weapons, marred the local easing of threats from the pandemic. And following the Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent outbreak of the war on Gaza, with its ongoing and spreading humanitarian horrors, the turmoil abroad has found echoes much closer to home (overshadowing news of the civil strife in Sudan and Haiti). You will thus have to take more seriously your responsibilities as citizens to ensure that our actions at home, and our nations’ actions in the world, increase the prospects of peace and prosperity for everyone 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 2024 and your families vision, strength, commitment and success in building rewarding lives for yourselves and addressing the unique challenges we will all face together.

Resolution in Support of the Faculty Newsletter for April 2024 Faculty Meeting

  • Whereas the MIT Faculty Newsletter (FNL) has published regularly since 1988, with more than 1,000 articles from faculty in 177 issues.
  • And whereas this has significantly facilitated and enhanced independent communication and discussion among faculty.
  • And whereas the Ad Hoc Committee on the Faculty Newsletter established by President Charles Vest concluded that the Board should remain autonomous from the Administration and from the faculty governance system; that there must be a mechanism to generate regular renewal in the Board’s membership; that a typical term on the Board should be three or four years; and that the Board should be representative of the Faculty in all of the relevant
  • And whereas the Editorial Board of the Faculty Newsletter, composed of current and retired faculty, is now elected by electronic secret ballot accessible to all current and retired faculty.

Therefore, be it here resolved that:

The Faculty Newsletter continue to publish 5-6 issues/year, with digital versions on its website, and including:

  • Reports from the Faculty Chair, Standing Committees, and Task Forces of the Faculty.
  • Articles and letters from current and retired faculty relating to the professional lives and concerns of MIT faculty.
  • Other articles and letters that the Editorial Board deems of value to the MIT faculty.

Be it further resolved that the officers of the FNL will report annually to the Institute faculty meeting on past activities and plans for the coming year.

Be it further resolved that the FNL will hold occasional open forums to permit active exchange of views in real time.

Respectfully submitted on this day Monday April 8, 2024

Prof.Nazli Choucri
Prof. Sally Haslanger
Prof. Nasser Rabbat
Prof. Franz-Joseph Ulm
Prof. George Verghese

Revised Policies and Procedures

The Faculty Newsletter operates according to its Policies and Procedures published on the FNL website. These have been recently revised, and the current version is now posted. 

Editorial Board Election

In this article, you will find the short biographies of candidates the FNL Nominations Committee has brought forward for this spring’s election to the Editorial Board. Faculty and emeritus faculty should vote for up to four of the seven, by following the instructions in the email you will have received. This election is run completely electronically for the Newsletter by the Provost’s Office of Institutional Research. We are sincerely grateful for their assistance, without which the election would not be possible.


In the last FNL, David Etlin (an alum of MIT Philosophy) has a piece titled “Is Antisemitism One of MIT’s Values?”.  In it he denounces the Women’s and Gender Studies Program for sponsoring a reading group on the book They Called Me a Lioness: A Palestinian Girl’s Fight for Freedom (Penguin 2023) by Ahed Tamimi and  Dena Takuri.  He claims, “. . . the MIT Women’s and Gender Studies Program announced a reading group on the writings of a Palestinian who has said, ‘we will slaughter you and you will say that what Hitler did to you was a joke, we will drink your blood and eat your skulls.’” (p.14) He links this comment to MIT Israel Alliance’s ppt slides about proof of antisemitism at MIT.

This allegation provides no evidence of antisemitism at MIT. It is highly questionable whether those antisemitic words were Tamimi’s. In the days leading up to her arrest for inciting violence, her social media accounts were hacked as a way to discredit her. (She has since been released.)  Nothing of this kind of antisemitism was included in the book that the students read. If anything, the book urges anti-violent resistance. Moreover, the opportunity to read, discuss, and critique controversial texts is not only essential to academic freedom, but also to developing skills of critical thinking.