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The MIT-Epstein student forum is starting!!! I'm gonna livetweet it here, and I'll try to include as much linked information as I can.
It's a student-led meeting that's not just about Epstein, but about funding at MIT, sexual violence, etc.
Speaking privileges today are reserved for students. The following people can speak if necessary to respond to something: President Reif, Chancellor Barnhart, the deans. Speaking rules: 2 min limit, name, year at MIT, department, whether or not it's on the record.
What does "on" or "off" the record mean? This meeting is being audio recorded -- the transcript will be used to make a summary, which *will be public.* Do you want your comments to be reported on in The Tech? They will only report on comments that are on the record.
This entire meeting is going to be audio recorded, but the organizers are saying that *we aren't allowed to speak about this publicly.*
There's a lot of support staff here tonight scattered around the front -- for written comments for the record, there's a public email: student-forum-record@mit.edu
President Reif is up now. "I know that it took a great deal of time & energy to make this happen. I'll allow as much time as possible for conversation. But a few remarks -- the past few weeks have been a time of great distress for our community."
"I know that the Epstein situation has left you hurt and angry -- and angry at me. I want to begin by saying that I am deeply sorry that the actions I took have been part of bringing struggles to the students of MIT."
"There's a culture problem. Practices and processes reflect cultural assumptions at MIT. The first problem is money: from conversations across our community, many people have big concerns about the ways that money changes hands."
"Women postdocs, graduate students, and beyond have told me that this is the last straw. This is yet another way that MIT devalues the lives of women and girls. We must examine how to dismantle those aspects of our culture that make possible the mistakes around Epstein."
"I am committed to making this moment of crisis a moment of reckoning -- in the process, there is an important role for students. The future of MIT belongs to you." I have been doing a lot of listening in the last couple weeks, and that's what I intend to do tonight."
"Drawing on the wisdom of our community, I want to take the pain of so many people and turn it into something good for our community. Thank you."
Now it's time for student speakers -- there are two microphones up, and students are going to start lining up.
A female grad student in EECS develops technology to fight human trafficking. "This area is extremely underfunded. MIT pledged to give $800k to a charity that benefits survivors. MIT could also pledge the same $ to students who are trying to fight human trafficking.
This grad student is self-funded; lots of people are in need of money to do this work. MIT students and researchers have the problem-solving skills to combat traffickers. She's asking MIT leadership to fill the funding gap.
It's time for LILLY CHIN! By the time she graduates, she'll have spent 35% of her time at MIT. "When I won Jeopardy, Pres. Reif told me, 'Nerd Pride.' It's hard to feel that pride now."
Lots of students are protesting, but there's been very little response from MIT administration. Donor money trumps student demands.
"Small things add up: I'm frustrated that the value that I give to MIT is in the answers I give on national TV. Stop valuing donors over students."
(There's huge applause for Lilly's comments. I'll link her prepared comments later -- they're 🔥🔥🔥)
Now it's a grad student in math. "There's been extensive media coverage about all of these problems -- there's no money dirty enough that MIT would reject."
Now, a grad student in mechanical engineering: "I have one word: accountability. When I read the words, 'I apparently signed this,' -- it's not a great example for us. If we're going to pin it on one thing, it shouldn't be the administration."
"It's not just about this forum. We have to have these conversations with our PIs, with our fellow students. I've been a combat leader in Afghanistan -- this is a leadership problem. Good organizations should run like butter even when leaders leave."
"Professors: I really urge you guys to hold people accountable. After everything happens: what happened? What can we do better? What can each of us do individually? This is not just a Joi or a Reif or Media Lab problem. I support Pres. Reif staying in."
Now it's Husayn Karimi of @MIT_SAW: "this isn't an isolated instance of behavior! What are MIT's values? Pres. Reif is a clever guy -- they all know how to use social justice language to cover up what they're actually talking about this."
@MIT_SAW There's lots of additional concerns about genocide, the ethics of Blackstone, etc. A direct question to Reif: "After being in bed with all of these people & taking dirty money, why should you still be our president?"
@MIT_SAW Reif: "I respect the views of the people who've spoken so far and don't want to argue details. You know what I think and I'm an open book. I respect your point of view -- people know what I think and how I think. When people make a mistake, we need to learn from those mistakes."
@MIT_SAW "I want the opportunity to make MIT a much better place based on what's already happened."
@MIT_SAW Now it's an MIT sophomore, who's asking the administration to continue donating to orgs that help survivors of sexual violence. "By admitting we have failed our community, we must choose to empower those within and without MIT."
@MIT_SAW "Innovation for humanity doesn't mean making the future more appealing. It's about making the present better."
@MIT_SAW Now it's @AmanuellaM! "Why hasn't MIT given any resources to VPR or other mental health resources to help people who have been impacted by the Epstein issue?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Now she's reading demands from senior women faculty + students + alumni. Here's some preliminary info about this: concernedatmit.weebly.com
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Another mechanical engineering grad student: "why is it that *students at MIT* have a higher ethical standard than the professors in this place? It's not just Reif who should be up there -- it's dept heads, profs, etc."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM She's been turned away from department heads, profs, etc. when she's voiced concerns.
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM A computer science grad student: "The first thing you should do tomorrow: resign. If you stay in office, then I hear that Kim Jong-Un might be interested in funding some course 22. I say 'fuck you' for all the people you've hurt throughout this debacle."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "I'm not the posterboy for feminism -- that's not my record. But the next president of MIT, and the next leader of the Media Lab, should definitely be women."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Next up: MechE grad student. "Despite how angry I am at these allegations, I want to thank you, Pres. Reif, for putting together these forums. I appreciate MIT treating students as adults and giving us a forum."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "I hope that students can rise to the occasion and tackle our own culpability. Would I be able to give up my position here if I found out that my funding here came from a source like Epstein? I like to think that I would give it up, but I honestly don't know."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "How can we make sure that there is accountability for all tertiary educational institutions?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Another grad student. "Just one day after the email where [Reif] expressed distress & shame about Epstein, Reif immediately wrote an obituary that praised Koch -- there was no mention of the dark legacy that Koch's money leaves. Can MIT admin be trusted to uphold values?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "Do you feel shame and distress when you talk about the Kochs' role at MIT?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Grad student in urban studies. There's an Un-Koch MIT movement -- this student's not here to talk about that, but about what it *signifies.* "Is it for the betterment for mankind when we take $ from people who have almost singlehandedly funded climate change denialism?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "It's not respect when you tell us that there's no transparency. I appreciate that you're here. But where's the corporation? If you want to usher cultural change. Open the door and help us get into the Corporation."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "This can be about morality & ethics in a circle. It's not respect when you lie to everyone's face here."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Next up: a bioengineering student who's also a survivor. "Most students don't think that their departments will back them up when they report discrimination. When the world is watching & when it stops watching: please do the right thing."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM CS grad student. "I want to believe in you and everyone in this room. What I want to focus on is ethics & truth seeking. I know that lots of his money *did* do good -- but a lot of it did horrible stuff, too. Why was that completely disregarded?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "That's why I'm so bothered when you say that he was a 'son of MIT.' I have so little faith -- I want to move from apologies to sustained action. How will we build infrastructure to make sure that we don't make the same mistakes?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Senior physics student. "I was one of the students in Seth Lloyd's class when he delivered his apology. Once class started, Lloyd started monologuing -- the fact that he started giving this apology with no warning was a disservice to students who couldn't leave."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "You outsourced your moral decisions to students. I chose to drop the class, but others struggle because you haven't put your foot down."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "Think about who's continuing in those classes. You want to talk about systematic barriers to women in science? There it is! If you're a woman in quantum computing, you have to sit through a lecture where someone who visits a pedophile in prison gets to monologue about it."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Next up: a grad student in HASTS. "I was raped and tortured as a child, and I am being treated for PTSD now. I am not unique in this situation. Think about how this makes so many of us feel."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Another grad student in HASTS. "How can we trust MIT to make an ethics committee for donors when the ethics committee for the College of Computing has people who deny the existence of gender identity?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "I have zero interest in changing this person's research agenda. We must recognize the high level of gender-based oppression that happens at MIT."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM A mechanical engineering student. "I'm proud of the MIT admissions process -- it's need-blind, doesn't give preference for athletics, etc. If can we uphold this kind of high standard for undergrads, why don't we have such high standards for financial sources?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Another mechanical engineering student. "The pursuit of knowledge is exciting. In this excitement, it can be easy to forget what makes this possible."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "The pursuit of knowledge is as much the pursuit of power, profit, and plunder. We've seen this w MIT's complicity in the military-industrial complex. Who does this institution protect? The power to change these conditions lies in students as long we have organization & clarity."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM EECS student: "do you feel some shame and distress when you name buildings & professorships after David Koch, and what are you going to do about it?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Reif: "What are our principles, and how are they different from other unis? Our principles today are very simple: academic integrity. If someone gives us a gift, then it is for the professor, not for the donor to control."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "That's what academic freedom is. That may have just been fine in the past, but we're going to be changing that in the future."

Student: "is there a timeline for this to change?"

Reif: "There will be faculty deliberations, and I want it to happen in months."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM A chem grad student. "I'm a scientist & survivor of sexual assault & sex trafficking. I don't want to be known for those things, I want to be known for my work. It's hard to do my work when you don't feel safe. A group of students waited for months for a response after #metoo"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "I want more resources for VPR and MIT Mental Health -- there should be enough counselors for students. I still can't believe that there isn't a support group for sexual assault survivors -- there was one for a semester, but was then discontinued."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "I want to go into academia bc I love science, but the treatment of women & marginalized groups is very disheartening. It makes me question if this is a place where I belong."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Another grad student. "We all made moral compromises. I made one when I decided to come to MIT. I'm an intl student, I'm from a SE Asian country that I disagree with, but I took my country's $ bc it was a way to get out of my country and get away from LGBTQ+ oppression."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "Lots of people make these kinds of moral compromises. When I made mine, it was a decision that affected me & my welfare. But when decisions are made at MIT, it affects lots of other people -- why do a few people in a few rooms get to make decisions on the behalf of so many?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM We're wrapping up at 8:30, so we're going to get through the line of people now and then finish.
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Next up: cognitive science grad student. "If you need women grad students to tell you that sexism is a problem, then you're part of the problem."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Previous student who expressed support for Reif (who talked about leadership & was a combat leader in Afghanistan): "I retract my previous statement of support for you! It's obvious that the students are really the moral compass here. This isn't just day-to-day business."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "All of us who are here care about this -- how do we keep everyone accountable and move forward? If it's not happening, we need new people."

Side note: whoa! Someone changed their mind because of this meeting!!
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Another grad student: "There's a lot of pain and anger. We're having a problem here because we're in a moral gray area. They're aren't good guys and bad guys. There's a whole room of people here who care, but the people who can actually make changes aren't."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "It's a time to have a lot more discussion about this. I don't think we're going to get anywhere unless we have long, careful discussion about this."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Another cognitive science grad student. "I'm here to acknowledge that the issues discussed here are not black/white. Clearly, a lot of people that that it was ok to take money from Epstein. There are people who *still* think that it's ok."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "You said that you made a mistake. What exactly were those mistakes? Words don't mean much otherwise. I want to see an email that details how donor guidelines would change. I would encourage dept heads to issue statements, too."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM @AmanuellaM is back! "People say that there's a lot of gray area. But there's one thing that isn't: MIT's response to women & survivors of sexual violence has been radio silence!"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "The people you've heard today are the people who've healed *just a little bit* to relive their trauma for you today. There was a support group for one semester and then it was discontinued! A lot of this HAS BEEN SILENCED. What does this say about our leaders, about MIT?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "I just want to reiterate: supporting women and survivors of sexual assault is not a gray moral area -- it's a black or white issue. PLEASE DON'T FORGET THOSE PEOPLE."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Another student: "I didn't come to MIT for (looking around the room) *for this.* I came here because I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn biology in a way that was right -- I think it matters that we took $ from Epstein no matter how amazing those projects are."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "MIT is an institution with power, and it should use power in a way that has integrity. It's really hard to see that right now."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "As far as checking donors: I think a Google search would have worked for Jeffrey Epstein." 🔥🔥🔥
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM A econ/polisci student. "I'm from an underdeveloped country in Latin America. The technology used to intervene in my country was used in all of LatAm and is used even now -- I understand that it's in the interest of the Us. But I came to MIT because I wanted to do better."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "MIT is contributing to technologies like that. MIT is producing engineers to make technologies like that. This is a big structural problem: how do we focus our thirst for knowledge and focus it to do better?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM A Media Lab grad student. "I was sexually abused as a child when I was chasing my dream to represent my country in cricket. To staff, deans, profs, students & community members: please be kind to survivors. Please be kind to students of Media Lab. They are being bullied online."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "Students of Media Lab are winning the same awards, publishing articles in the same journals, etc. as other people. Please listen and support to these students."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "Gandhi said 'be the change you want to see in the world.' What does that mean here? When it comes to hiring, we always talk about whether or not they're stars in their field. Why not examine their moral character?"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "I come from a small town in India. I wanted to send my sister, my daughter, my children to MIT -- I don't think I would want to do that now. This is a litmus test for defining us. We see a lot of promises, but that's not going to be enough."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Final student up, the one who talked about moral compromises & SE Asia: "why is it that institutions like MIT find it so tempting to take money of dubious donors? I can understand that frame of mind--if you take the money, you can do research & change the world."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "If you don't take the money, then you think that these rich people will take the money and do ill with it. But MIT doesn't live in this tiny world--MIT saying that they *don't* want to take this $ is a moral stand!"
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "MIT rejects David Koch's $ bc he's funding climate denialism. MIT rejects Jeffrey Epstein's $ bc he's a sex offender. This is the kind of moral leadership that MIT *could have* been taking, but didn't."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Now, some closing comments from the student organizers & from President Reif.
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM Reif: "I want to make it clear that I respect the views that were expressed. Many of them were harsh, but I respect them. I would have liked to have a conversation -- many of these people made points, but it can be hard to connect the dots."
@MIT_SAW @AmanuellaM "Point 2: It was extremely painful to see how survivors are reliving their pain in this situation. I am sorry to make you relive this pain."
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