Statement

“Do We Act Now” is a call by members of MIT faculty to collectively respond to “…any steps taken by the Trump administration that would undermine the democratic processes, or that would slow progress towards a more just and equitable society in America.”  We invite all members of the MIT community (staff, researchers, lectures, PI’s and students) to read the statement and if you agree, add your signature. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out.

 


Do We Act Now?

For many MIT faculty, staff and students, the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States is cause for alarm. The words and actions of the President have for us animated a real fear: that this administration may undo the gains that have pressed the United States to become an increasingly just and equitable society for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, identity, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, or class. Many of us are afraid that normalizing the actions of this administration will erode concern for the suffering of others and undermine aspirational American commitments to human rights and dignity for all people. As MIT faculty, we are particularly troubled by this President’s blatant disregard for the scientific method and by his administration’s attempts to gaslight the American public with the presentation of “alternative facts,” a dangerous absurdity that threatens the tenets of empiricism, the rigor of rational argument, and the judgments that might follow from reasoned debate. Democracy and the rule of law depend upon facts. We cannot cede these.

Protests, petitions, and calls to action here on campus as well as around the world have demonstrated that there is wide worry about the direction in which President Trump seeks to lead the nation. We believe that collective acts of resistance are necessary.

For us as members of the faculty of MIT it is not enough to add our individual voices in protest. We need to harness the power of our identity as faculty of MIT to meet the challenge we face. The first step is clearly to name the situation before us. Many of us believe that Trump is moving toward authoritarianism, and we believe that this represents an attack on democracy. Those of us who have studied the history of fascism, believe Trump’s administration represents a significant step in this direction.

We have seen in American history the failure of academics to actively oppose and resist the continuing oppression of African Americans — after Reconstruction, in the days of civil rights, and today in the era of Black Lives Matter. We have seen our male colleagues accept the exclusion of women from advancement within the academy and without. We have heard the silence of academics during the McCarthy period, when many intellectuals were targeted in an anti-Communist witchhunt.

We understand that naming what is happening now as the first steps toward authoritarian government or even fascism does not sit well with many of our colleagues. Many faculty will consider such a characterization to be premature or extreme. But the history of the rise of fascism in Italy, in Germany, in Spain, and in Romania shows us the peril of refusing to recognize fascism in its infancy. It is perhaps better to err on the side of overstatement now, than to try to temper our concerns for too long.

Indeed, as academics we are often more comfortable creating the conditions to individually debate back and forth than collectively to act. This is particularly true given our dedication to having the academy be a place for the free and open change of ideas. And as journalist Rachel Shabi wrote in a recent Al-Jazeera Op Ed,

....we are caught somewhere between not wanting to belittle history, nor make inaccurate comparisons - but also not wanting to underplay current realities either.  We struggle to find a useful space between normalization and alarmism.    Rachel Shabi

 

Trump presents us not with business as usual. We need to prepare for effective responses — everyday, short and long term — to any steps taken by the Trump administration that would undermine the democratic processes, or that would slow progress towards a more just and equitable society in America. We must insist on facts not propaganda. We must oppose the dissemination of lies. Propaganda is a primary tool of undemocratic regimes. We can best prepare together if we are clear that we are a collective of faculty united in our commitment.

Let us call ourselves Faculty for Democracy and at the same time put forth before the MIT faculty a resolution recognizing the danger of the rise of an authoritarian regime in America and declaring our dedication to collectively fight, as faculty of MIT, and with faculty of other institutions of higher education, to ensure that the root of fascism does not take hold in this country.


 

Faculty Signers

Cherie Miot Abbanat
Lecturer 
Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Abhijit Banerjee
Ford International Professor of Economics
Department of Economics

Eran Ben-Joseph
Professor/Head
Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Manduhai Buyandelger
Associate Professor
Anthropology Program
Gabriella Y. Carolini, PhD
Assistant Professor of International Development and Urban Planning
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Colin Carew (PI Media Lab)
Director, Media Lab Code(2)b
Media Laboratory
Sasha Costanza-Chock
Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor
Comparative Media Studies/Writing
Noam Chomsky
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Dayna Cunningham
Executive Director, CoLab
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Michel DeGraff
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Paloma Duong
Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies
Global Studies and Languages
Michael M. J. Fischer
Professor of Anthropology & Science Tech Studies
Program in Science, Technology, and Society
Daniel Fox
Professor
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Wendy Gilbert
Associate Professor
Department of Biology
Ezra Haber Glenn
Lecturer
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Jeffrey C. Grossman
Professor
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
James Harris
Professor of Spanish/Linguistics, Emeritus
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Wesley L. Harris
Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Sally Haslanger
Professor
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Dorothy Hosler
Professor of Archaeology & Ancient Technology
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
David Hsu
Assistant Professor
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Jean E. Jackson
Professor of Anthropology Emeritus
Anthropology Program
Erica C. James
Associate Professor
Anthropology Program
Rafael Jaramillo
Assistant Professor
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Louis Kampf 
Professor Emeritus of Humanities
Literature Section 
Nancy Kanwisher
Walter A Rosenblith Professor
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Jonathan Alan King
Professor
Department of Biology
Melvin King
Senior Lecturer Emeritus
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Heather Lechtman
Professor of Archaeology & Ancient Technology
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Helen Elaine Lee
Director of Women's and Gender Studies
Comparative Media Studies/Writing
Ceasar McDowell
Professor of the Practice
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Wayne O’Neil
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Julie H. Ortony
Assistant Professor
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Ruth Perry 
Ann Fetter Friedlaender Professor of the Humanities 
Literature Faculty
Carlo Ratti
Professor of the Practice
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Jeffrey S. Ravel
Professor/Head History Section
History Section
Tamar Schapiro
Associate Professor
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Anne Whiston Spirn
Professor
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
C. Cem Tasan
Assistant Professor
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
J. Phillip Thompson 
Associate Professor
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Gediminas Urbonas
Professor
Program in Art, Culture and Technology
Christine Walley
Professor
Anthropology Program
Ivan Werning
Professor
Department of Economics
Clarence G. Williams, PhD 
Adjunct Professor of Urban Studies, Emeritus 
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Elizabeth A Wood
Professor
History Section
Stephen Yablo
David W. Skinner Professor of Philosophy
Department of Linguistics and Philosophy