About the Committee

Charge to the Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom and Campus Expression

The Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Freedom and Campus Expression (CAFCE) will bring together students, staff, and faculty to develop a Campus Expression Roadmap for the Institute. The roadmap will include an implementation plan that builds on the Report of the MIT Ad Hoc Working Group on Free Expression (FEWG) and the MIT Statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom as amended and approved by the MIT Faculty on December 21, 2022. In particular, the roadmap will propose steps to advance the FEWG Report recommendations.

The CAFCE will aim to establish a healthy foundation for academic freedom, civility, and the inclusion of a diversity of voices on campus, bearing in mind that university campuses include spaces that are academic and residential as well as others that are workplaces, sometimes all at the same time. This hybridity can make it challenging to navigate issues of free expression, academic freedom, civility, and inclusion. The committee may wish to explore ways to support community members in learning to engage in difficult conversations and discussions concerning controversial issues and working with other community leaders to celebrate campus expression. The CAFCE will also serve as a mechanism of information exchange and coordination across students, administration, and faculty on matters related to free expression. In addition to the recommendations in the FEWG Report, the committee may develop its own recommendations to encourage and protect campus expression, and to assess the climate for academic freedom and free expression over time.

A subset of the committee may serve as the “[faculty-governed] resource for the MIT community when contested matters of speech arise” recommended by the FEWG Report. The subset of the committee serving in this role may vary depending on the challenge at hand and can be convened at the discretion of the CAFCE co-chairs when MIT community members seek consultation on challenges related to campus expression or academic freedom. This subset’s primary role in such discussions is not to resolve conflicts or decide legal or administrative matters, but rather to help the persons requesting advice to understand how relevant Institute policies and values, including the Statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom, may bear on a given situation. Recommendations and deliberations, including dissenting opinions, will form part of the committee’s record. The committee is encouraged to maintain a library of “case law” about how the group related general philosophies or policies to particular cases, and recommend a process for MIT community members to follow if they have concerns related to campus expression; the process should identify who is ultimately responsible for making potentially controversial decisions and how those decisions will be communicated and shared with the community. The committee may also make recommendations on urgent matters related to academic freedom or campus expression.

The committee will report to the President and the Chair of the Faculty by the end of spring semester 2024, communicating its recommendations for next steps, and then to the Institute Faculty in the fall semester 2024, soliciting comments from the community before finalizing its recommendations by the end of fall 2024. Among the recommendations should be an assessment of whether the committee should be extended for a defined time or succeeded by a more permanent body.

Staff/others: 4 members (Provost designee, Dean for Student Life (Suzy Nelson), Senior Associate Dean for Student Support and Wellbeing and Chief of Staff  (David Randall), ICEO)
Students: 4 members (2 undergraduates and 2 graduate students)
Faculty: 5 members (chair, co-chair, and 3 faculty)