November 9, 2016
To the members of the MIT community,
Today, we learned that we will have a new administration in Washington that promises a great deal of change.
Within the global MIT community — more than 26,000 of us here in Cambridge and at Lincoln Lab, and 134,000 alumni — some will find those changes welcome. Some will not.
As I saw this afternoon, students have wrapped the six great columns in Lobby 7 with huge sheets of paper. Three ask that you "Share Your Hopes," three to "Share Your Fears." They are covered with handwritten responses. People are lingering to read and add their own. Many say they fear for the future of the country, some for their personal safety, for their civil rights or that "my values no longer matter." Others fear that their peers will never take the time to understand why they voted for the winner. One hope struck me in particular: "I hope to understand the 48 percent of Americans who disagree with me." Nearly all the writers express some kind of pain. Yet together they have created a wonderful example of mutual respect and civil dialogue.
Whatever may change in Washington, I believe there is great power in remembering that it will not change the values and the mission that unite us.
As a community and as a practical force for good, MIT is a quintessential expression of America at its best: Bold, optimistic and focused on inventing the future. Delighted and energized by our diversity, with a meritocratic openness to talent, culture and ideas from anywhere. Humble, pragmatic, crazy about science and insistent on seeking the facts. A place of rigor, ingenuity and real-world problem-solving, where generations of bright young minds have come from every corner of the Earth to make something of themselves and work together to make a better world.
That is MIT.
Nothing can change that. And nothing can change our commitment to tackling big, important problems for humanity — climate change, clean energy, cybersecurity, human health — with colleagues of every identity and background.
As an institution, we do some of our best work when we turn outward to the world. Let's continue to do that now. And, following our students' lead, let us find ways to listen to one another — with sympathy, humility, decency, respect and kindness.
L. Rafael Reif, President
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
After an election like this, what are your hopes? What are your fears?
That’s the question 20-year-old Caroline Mak and her friends asked the MIT community Wednesday morning. The college junior said she was watching the election Tuesday night with MIT Democrats, when she realized they needed a way to express themselves after such an emotional campaign.
“We thought let’s just have something in Lobby 7, which is one of our main gathering places and walkthroughs, and just sit and reflect because a lot of people were in distress and trying to process what’s going on,” Mak said. “We thought even if Clinton wins tonight, this has been a lot.”
Mak and her friends originally invited students Tuesday night to have a gathering in the lobby to share their feelings. On Wednesday morning, however, the group decided instead to post giant pieces of paper on the lobby pillars and invited people to stop by and write their hopes and fears.
“All of us were doubtful if people would put anything there, but within moments it was getting covered,” Mak said.
Scrawled on the paper were notes, saying everything from “Love trumps hate” to “We stand together” to “I hope the American people can be civil about the election.”
Mak said though she is a part of MIT Democrats, the posters quickly became an outlet for people from both parties.
“A fair amount of Trump supporters came out,” Mak said. “I’ve come out and talked to them and it’s been really interesting to see the tone of everything and the respectful conversations we’ve had at a time when all the emotions are still pretty raw.”
Mak said the posters, which caught the attention of school administrators, will likely be left up for several days.
“I heard they might even be put in the MIT archives,” Mak said.
Mak said she wanted everyone, regardless of political affiliations, to feel supported.
“It really spoke to the original purpose of the event, which was to have a moment, no matter how you feel, to be with other people,” Mak said. “Seeing all of these different voices, all of these different concerns was very impactful.”
In response to the recent presidential election, MIT students and community members gathered in Lobby 7, where posters wrapped around the pillars there invited them to share their reactions. This week, these 12 posters were transferred to the Institute Archives and Special Collections, where they will be kept in the archives so that they can be viewed and preserved for anyone to access and learn from, now and in the future. They have been added to the Collection on Student Life at MIT (MC-0618), which offers a glimpse of the social backdrop students experience while at MIT.
The posters, which measure between 11.5 and 16 feet long and 3 to 4 feet high, are themed around four ideas:
Staff of the Institute Archives are in the process of taking close-up images of the posters that will be used to transcribe the handwritten text. Full images of the posters and transcribed text will be made available through an MIT Libraries website in the coming weeks.
Update: The website is now available – Visit the Election 2016 Reaction: Lobby 7 Posters site
Anyone interested in viewing the posters in person can do so in the Institute Archives and Special Collections reading room in building 14N-118. The reading room is open Monday through Thursday, 10am to 4pm. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.