UPDATE: Please see our report on the following plan. We have annotated the text below with comments in italics to note progress and challenges. Rather than continuing to report on these action items we plan to integrate our work with school and institutional efforts, for example, SHASS Diversity Predoctoral Fellowships, MIT’s Strategic Action Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and MIT’s Summer Research Program. By joining these efforts, we aim to have a bigger combined impact, while continuing to push for and practice the values laid out in our commitment.
Structural change requires a shift in mindset, in behavior, and an uncomfortable reckoning with the way things are and how they ought to be — our goal to support anti-racism and Black lives is equally challenging as it is essential to our mission.
In trying to figure out how we can best reform our own communities and institutions, we intend to learn from and amplify the ongoing efforts of many others while outlining a path forward that fits our organization. To start dismantling racism we need to consider the links between individual and community-level action and conscientiously make “frequent, consistent, [and] equitable choices” every day.
“To do this work effectively, we must do it together.” – L. Rafael Reif, MIT President
Beginning with the 2020-2021 academic year, MIT GOV/LAB is committing to the action items detailed below, which are organized in a phased approach so we can adapt and iterate as we learn by doing. We will monitor and report online as part of our annual review process to gauge progress and course correct as needed. This is an open discussion and we welcome input from the broader MIT GOV/LAB community. Please be in touch email@example.com or submit comments through our online suggestion box.
This plan was developed by the MIT GOV/LAB core team in close discussion with the entire lab team and reviewed by MIT’s Institute Community and Equity Office. The plan was last updated on September 9, 2020.
Tracking progress at a quick glance: ✔️= some progress made; ✔️✔️ = completed. Links are provided where public-facing records are available and our aim is to have smart actions (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound).
Phase 0: Connect the dots.
We commit to being a partner for other initiatives at MIT leading on anti-racism by communicating, reporting, and supporting ongoing efforts (ongoing).
- MIT. June 2nd the Institute Community and Equity Office hosted a “MIT Community Vigil” announcing an institute-wide plan. July 1st President Reif announced the development of an “institute-wide action plan for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)” kicking off August 5 with a “Day of Dialogue” on race and anti-racism. More details on the action plan.
- MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “Making a Just Society” with educational resources and research from staff available online.
- MIT Department of Political Science. June 7th graduate students emailed “Why We Are Hurting: Letter to the Faculty.” June 25th, faculty and staff met Graduate Student Council (GSC) representatives, who presented ideas generated in a collaborative process. During the meeting, faculty discussed existing DEI efforts, asked for clarifications on the GSC recommendations, and suggested additional ideas. Faculty and GSC representatives committed to an additional meeting in the fall. In August a departmental Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group consisting of five faculty members, two staff members, and three graduate students was established.
- MIT GOV/LAB. Faculty- led drafting of commitment for anti-racism and Black lives in early June, which was circulated by email, discussed at a lab meeting on June 5th and posted online the same day. Action plan drafted June 15th for discussion and comment.
Opportunities for individuals to support: 1) Sign MIT GOV/LAB Commitment to anti-racism and Black lives; 2) Sign the petition to Support Black Lives at MIT, a student-led evaluation and action plan organized by the Black Graduate Student Association; and 3) Support Rise4MIT (Reject Injustice through Student Empowerment), sign the petition.
Phase I: Align values and actions.
We commit to aligning anti-racist values across our work through education and training opportunities, openness to criticism and feedback, and how we communicate (immediate).
Education and training
- ✔️✔️ Provide all Graduate Research Fellows with $25 credit to purchase a book of their choice on anti-racism and related topics at a Boston-based black-owned bookstore (completed June 2020). Complete.
- ✔️ ✔️ Update Student Handbook with commitment and values. Share and discuss changes during the Fall 2020 kick-off lab meeting. Complete.
- ✔️ ✔️ Create and share an informal reading list on racism and social justice literature requested by team members and compiled by Faculty Affiliates. Complete.
- Designate scheduled lab meeting time for education and reflection, including allocated time for student-reported PPPs (problems, progress, plans) to discuss issues and crowd-source ideas. Set aside time once a semester to read and discuss literature and/or practical experience combatting racism in academia or in field work (led by a team member or external speaker). Some discussion in fall semester, but declining interest and motivation into the spring and fall during remote work.
- ✔️ Allocate funds for MIT GOV/LAB team members to participate in diversity, equity, and inclusion education and training at MIT or externally (~$300 per person/ ~$2,000 per lab-wide training per year; additional funds available on request.) Funds allocated but not used.
- ✔️ Organize mini-seminar series on structural racism in academia, with a focus on social and political sciences and challenges of hiring, pedagogy, fieldwork, publishing, tenure advancement, etc. Plan to have one talk per semester in 2020/21 academic year and to invite other groups in Political Science to co-host. We joined an exciting event #BlackInTheIvory event (November 2020), but were unsuccessful in garnering interest for an event at the department level.
- ✔️ ✔️ Create and disseminate a suggestion box to invite any comments, suggestions, ideas, or grievances related to MIT GOV/LAB. Completed.
- ✔️ Monitor suggestion box monthly and discuss during regular core team meetings. Aggregate and report comments to the larger lab team once a semester. No comments were received over the year and we decided to remove the comment box.
- Share a summary of the types of comments we receive, and actions taken on our website once a year. Invite MIT’s Community and Equity Office to review our process and contents of the suggestion box annually. See note above, no comments received.
- Take action in response to feedback. Specific steps to address feedback will be determined by the issues and concerns raised. See note above, no comments received.
- ✔️ ✔️ Website: Display commitment prominently on home, about, DEI pages. Complete.
- ✔️ ✔️ Reports: Feature commitment prominently in report to donors (June 2020). Complete.
- ✔️ ✔️ Publish yearly blog “What we’re reading now” with specific resources on anti-racism and recommendations from students, faculty and staff. March 2021 post. Complete.
- ✔️ Amplify the work and words of Black scholars on social media (@pocalsoknowstuff —actively looking for ways to better measure this action). On going progress.
- Draft guidelines for image use in line with our values and commitments to be published online and applied across the website and other GOV/LAB materials. Did not move forward as there are many good existing resources, for example AFP Canada, Images of Empowerment (Getty), Unite for Site.
Phase II: Put engaged scholarship ethos into practice.
We commit to integrating an anti-racist approach in our engaged scholarship model, and how we co-design collaborations with both practitioner partners and scholars (medium/long-term).
Align engaged scholarship mission and strategy
- Assess what we’re already doing to support partner capacity and identify areas for improvement (e.g., clarify co-design methods as well as resources and tools available for training, dissemination, etc. so partners can input on decisions). This is a bigger, higher-level series of conversations that we didn’t have capacity for this year.
- Update language on website to include engaged scholarship approach. In progress.
- Search and share best practices to follow for anti-racism in international development. We shared some resources internally (e.g., Oxfam FP2P blog, Aid-Reimagined “How to be an Anti-Racist in Aid” event, Vodafone Foundation report) but have not developed best practices, which we felt were more appropriate as a collaborative effort, at a higher-level.
Speakers, participants, and events
- Assess strategy for outreach, selection, and support for event speakers and participants and identify areas for improvement (e.g., event guidelines for speaker and audience makeup, protocols for outreach and dissemination). Our own hosted events were largely put on hold for the past year plus so we didn’t prioritize this.
- ✔️ Allocate funds to support participation and travel for underrepresented participants (i.e., 2-3 scholarships of $2,000 depending on location/event). Funds were allocated but not used.
- Improve protocols for research funding, including processes for advertising and outreach, selection, and management. Plan to assess demographics of current funding recipients/institutions, accessibility of the application process, and identify areas to increase transparency and widen the net beyond the existing community. Our previous research funding processes weren’t in place due to travel and in-person research restrictions so this was not assessed.
- Align with MIT-wide effort to increase purchasing and contracting with minority-owned businesses, including Black-led enterprises. Our purchasing was reduced in certain ways due to the pandemic and remote operations (i.e. no catering for events). We purchased gift cards to a local Black-owned bookstore for our team twice in 2020.
- Create guidelines to track and report on funding, purchasing and contracting activity stated above. Did not move forward (see note above on delayed activities).
Phase III: Changing norms; building the pipeline.
We commit to the long-term goal of creating a community at MIT GOV/LAB and in Political Science that actively includes, supports, and celebrates Black scholars and other underrepresented groups (medium/long-term).
Building the pipeline of scholars
- ✔️ ✔️ Develop and test out an academic-year mentorship program for Boston-area undergraduates. Program would be a paid opportunity to work with a MIT GOV/LAB doctoral student on research over a sustained period (in development for Fall 2020). Completed. Program was carried out virtually in 2020-2021 with five undergraduate students.
- Active recruitment of Black students and other underrepresented groups, including Global South, to the MIT GOV/LAB team meeting during the MIT Political Science open house (e.g., targeted information session or mentorship in the application process). Open house was virtual due to the pandemic and we did not host our usual meet and greet.
- ✔️ Continue creating, supporting, and funding training opportunities for scholars in the Global South (e.g., Busara/MIT Behavioral Science in the Field course – complete 2020 cohort and hold next class in 2022). First cohort data collection and subsequent course development both delayed due to research and travel restrictions.
- Provide input and support for other programs (e.g., redesign of MIT’s Summer Research Program (MSRP) with the aim to better recruit interest in political science and MIT GOV/LAB topics; continuation of SHASS predoc program. Unable to successfully make contact, and determined to be outside the purview of the lab. As stated in the report, this will be a focus moving forward.
Team composition and culture
- Review structures, policies, and practices that promote inequities within our team and consider concrete ways to create an equitable and inclusive environment where Black scholars can succeed. Have had informal discussions, but our team is still relatively small, and we haven’t produced any formal review.
- Assess current team composition and determine areas of improvement to help diversify representation of people of color among all types of membership (students, faculty, staff, affiliates). Similar to the note above, our team is still relatively small, and we are actively thinking about how to improve team composition, including through our affiliates and practitioner-in-residence program.
Progress on this plan was updated in September 2021 and is no longer being continuously reported. Have questions? Please be in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org, @mitgovlab.
(Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC. Alisa Zomer)