Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Website: http://www.mit.edu/
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

At present, FIRE has not been involved in any cases at this school.
Yellow Light Policies
  • Mind and Hand Book: Policies Regarding Student Behavior- II (8) Freedom of Expression

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: June 28, 2017

    Freedom of expression is essential to the mission of a university. So is freedom from unreasonable and disruptive offense. Members of this educational community are encouraged to avoid putting these essential elements of our university to a balancing test.

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  • MIT Policies & Procedures: 9.5 Policy on Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 28, 2017

    Harassment is defined as unwelcome conduct of a verbal, nonverbal or physical nature that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a work or academic environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or abusive and that adversely affects an individual’s educational, work, or living environment.

    Below is a partial list of examples of conduct that would likely be considered harassing, followed by a partial list of examples that would likely not constitute harassment:

    • Examples of possibly harassing conduct: … the use of certain racial epithets;

    Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when:

    • The conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would consider it intimidating, hostile or abusive and it adversely affects an individual’s educational, work, or living environment.

    A partial list of examples of conduct that might be deemed to constitute sexual harassment if sufficiently severe or pervasive include:

    Examples of verbal sexual harassment may include unwelcome conduct such as sexual flirtation, advances or propositions or requests for sexual activity or dates; asking about someone else’s sexual activities, fantasies, preferences, or history; discussing one’s own sexual activities, fantasies, preferences, or history; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; suggestive comments; sexually explicit jokes; turning discussions at work or in the academic environment to sexual topics; and making offensive sounds such as “wolf whistles.”

    » Read More

  • MITNet Rules of Use

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: June 28, 2017

    Any use that might contribute to the creation of a hostile academic or work environment is prohibited ….

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  • Student Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: June 28, 2017

    Sexual Harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when:

    • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual’s employment or academic standing; or
    • submission to, or rejection of, such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions (such as advancement, performance evaluation, or work schedule) or academic decisions (such as grading or letters of recommendation); or
    • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s working conditions, academic experience, or living conditions, or of creating a hostile working, academic, or living environment.

    Even one instance of sexual harassment, if severe enough, may create a hostile environment. A non-exhaustive set of examples of conduct that might constitute sexual harassment are included below.  One or more of these actions will be considered sexual harassment only when that conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with another individual’s working conditions, academic experience, or living conditions, or of creating a hostile working, academic, or living environment.

    Examples of verbal sexual harassment may include unwelcome conduct such as unwelcome sexual flirtation, advances or propositions or requests for sexual activity or dates; asking about someone else’s sexual activities, fantasies, preferences, or history; discussing one’s own sexual activities, fantasies, preferences, or history; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; suggestive comments; sexually explicit jokes; turning discussions at work or in the academic environment to sexual topics; and making offensive sounds such as smacking or licking lips, kissing sounds, or “wolf whistles.”

    Examples of nonverbal sexual harassment include unwelcome conduct such as displaying sexual objects, pictures or other images; invading a person’s personal body space, such as standing closer than appropriate or necessary or hovering; displaying or wearing objects or items of clothing which express sexually offensive comments; making sexual gestures with hands or body movements; looking at a person in a sexually suggestive or intimidating manner; or delivering unwanted letters, gifts, or other items of a sexual nature. In addition, nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual exploitation, and nonconsensual sexual penetration may constitute nonverbal instances of sexual harassment.

    Sexual harassment does not include material or discussion that is appropriately related to course subject matter or curriculum, and this policy shall not abridge academic freedom or the Institute’s educational mission.

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Green Light Policies
  • MIT Policies & Procedures: 1.1 Mission and Objectives

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: June 28, 2017

    The Institute seeks through research and reflection to extend the boundaries of knowledge and the horizons of the human intellect. In so doing, it aims to create an atmosphere of intellectual excitement, a climate of inquiry and innovation in which each student develops a consuming interest in understanding for its own sake.

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  • MIT Policies & Procedures: 11.1 Protection of Personal Privacy

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: June 28, 2017

    MIT is committed to protecting the personal privacy of members of the MIT community. The mutual trust and freedom of thought and expression essential to a university rest on a confidence that privacy will be respected.

    » Read More


  • FIRE Chairman Calls Out Northeast Colleges in Annual ‘Muzzle Awards’

    July 6, 2015

    Each summer for the past eighteen years, FIRE Co-founder and Chairman Harvey Silverglate has announced the winners of his annual “Campus Muzzle Awards”: colleges and universities in the Northeast stifling campus discourse in particularly outrageous ways. Along with myself and fellow research assistant Timothy Moore, this year, Harvey has written about incidents at Brown University, SUNY Buffalo State, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Norwich University, and Harvard Law School. As always, a key theme is students’ and administrators’ desire to shield themselves from uncomfortable speech or ideas. Regarding the incident at Harvard Law School, Harvey writes: The campus “disinvitation” trend forces […]

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  • MIT Grad Student Raises Concerns About Broad New Hazing Policy

    September 5, 2014

    In a guest column published in today’s edition of The Tech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) oldest student newspaper, graduate student Brian Spatocco opens with a startling admission: “Under MIT’s recently overhauled hazing policy in the Mind and Hand Book, I am guilty of hazing students.” Is Spatocco forcing his fellow students to sizzle like bacon—or something far worse? No. But under MIT’s new hazing policy, Spatocco is guilty nonetheless. And he’s not alone. Here’s the new policy’s definition of hazing: Any action or activity that causes or intends to cause physical or mental discomfort or distress, that may […]

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  • FIRE President: ‘When the Artist’s Brush Catches the Censor’s Eye’

    November 26, 2013

    In a column published today by The Tech, an independent student newspaper at MIT, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff explores how far colleges will go to censor controversial art on campus. Titled “When the Artist’s Brush Catches the Censor’s Eye,” Greg’s column cites numerous troubling examples, including the following from MIT: MIT students recently witnessed this type of suppression when the school painted over certain murals in the Burton-Conner dormitory. Unconventional student art can be found throughout the halls of Burton-Conner. The building is filled with “lovely, quirky, bizarre, exquisitely beautiful art,” according to Anne McCants, the dormitory’s housemaster. The censored murals, however, touched upon aspects […]

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  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: MIT

    June 8, 2009

    Throughout the spring semester and into the early summer, FIRE is drawing special attention to the state of free speech at America’s top 25 national universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). Today we review policies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which FIRE has given a yellow-light rating for maintaining policies that could too easily be used to suppress free speech at the university. MIT is a private university. However, it holds itself out, through its mission and objectives, as a place where students and faculty are encouraged to engage in unfettered intellectual exploration (in contrast […]

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