MIT Ends Use of DEI Statements

MIT Ends Use of DEI Statements

May 22, 2024

MIT President Sally Kornbluth banned the use of DEI statements for faculty hiring and promotion in April 2024. Up until this time, the use of DEI statements at MIT was inconsistent, with some academic departments requiring them but not others. The new Institute-wide policy was issued by the MIT administration and unifies the ban across departments.

The new policy was announced to the faculty during the week of April 8th. The policy was not publicly announced at that time and went generally unnoticed, partly due to MIT's preoccupation with the on-going demonstrations related to the Mideast conflict. MIT first confirmed the news to writer John Sailer, who reported on the DEI statement ban for Unherd on May 5, saying: 
On [May 4], an MIT spokesperson confirmed in an email to me that “requests for a statement on diversity will no longer be part of applications for any faculty positions at MIT”, adding that the decision was made by embattled MIT President Sally Kornbluth “with the support of the Provost, Chancellor, and all six academic deans”.

President Kornbluth further commented, “We can build an inclusive environment in many ways, but compelled statements impinge on freedom of expression, and they don’t work.”

The MIT Free Speech Alliance had previously called on MIT to end the use of DEI statements. Most recently, in his January 19, 2024, letter to members, MFSA President Wayne Stargardt identified three specific changes that MFSA focused on accomplishing in 2024, which included:
Stop requiring DEI compliance statements
DEI statements for admission, hiring and promotion are simply compelled speech. They are a violation of the spirit of the Statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom, and they violate the logic of last summer’s SCOTUS ruling.

While some universities with strong free speech traditions, such as the University of Chicago, have never allowed DEI statements in hiring or admissions, these statements have become required at most institutions of higher education alongside adoption of organizational policies promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). In recent years, public universities in several states have stopped the practice of requiring DEI statements, usually at the behest of lawmakers or their state-appointed trustees. MIT’s policy to ban the use of DEI statements is significant for two reasons. First, MIT is the first private university to formally ban the use of DEI statements. Second, the MIT policy change makes it the first university to ban DEI statements as an internally driven change. MIT has long been a leader in STEM research, education, and scholarship. This policy change reaffirms the values and principles that have made MIT one of the most exceptional universities in the world.

The ban on DEI statements continues President Sally Kornbluth’s efforts to restore a culture of free and open discourse at MIT, to support viewpoint diversity and to defend academic freedom. Starting with her endorsement of the faculty’s Statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom after six weeks in office, President Kornbluth has continued to work with the faculty to implement the spirit of MIT's new freedom of expression statement. Last year she appointed a joint faculty-student Committee on Academic Freedom and Campus Expression to devise initiatives and institutional changes to advance the goals of the Statement. Notably, the ban on DEI statements was unanimously approved by the Institute’s academic and administrative leadership. President Kornbluth continues to support freedom of expression in action, from the Institute’s response to the postering controversy in the spring of 2023, to its response to demonstrators and protesters over the current Mideast conflict.

MFSA commends President Kornbluth for taking the lead on this issue, and we hope other university leaders will follow her example.