The President-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change. Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission. At this time, it is important to reaffirm the values we hold in common.

Question: Why not mention the president-elect by name? More importantly, why are the two accusations — appointing racists and bigots and climate change denial — presented as parallel? These are very different things. One of MIT’s values is open discourse — doesn’t that include a failure to believe in climate change? (If, like most Republicans in congress, the president-elect had denied client change but had not appointed advisors who were bigots, this message would not exist.)

Why is it important “at this time” to reaffirm MIT’s values? This is an attempt to show unity at MIT behind one viewpoint. But I don’t believe that unity exists. Surely there are professors and students that voted for Trump on the campus, but they’re not included in this letter. Looking more deeply, I think this is an upsetting time for many Americans, and that the folks who created and signed this letter wanted to feel as if they were doing something. This is a response to an emotional need on the campus.

We, the undersigned faculty at MIT, thus affirm the following principles:

  • We unconditionally reject every form of bigotry, discrimination, hateful rhetoric, and hateful action, whether directed towards one’s race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, citizenship, political views, socioeconomic status, veteran status, or immigration status.

Comments: A courageous stand against bigotry. But as with most platitudes, no one will disagree with this. Trump himself could sign a statement to this effect and keep doing what he’s doing — he’s already said that he doesn’t believe Steve Bannon is a bigot.

  • We endorse MIT’s values of open, respectful discourse and exchange of ideas from the widest variety of intellectual, religious, class, cultural, and political perspectives.

Comments: Another platitude — no one is against open and respectful discourse. Why is this here? Is it targeted at Trump’s style, which is far from open and respectful? Or is is an attempt to show that by respectfully censuring Trump, these faculty are adhering to their own standards?

  • We uphold the principles of the scientific method, of fact- and reason-based objective inquiry. Science is not a special interest; it is not optional. Science is a foundational ingredient in how we as a society analyze, understand, and solve the most difficult challenges that we face.

Comments: You might think “we believe in science” is a platitude, but in today’s political discourse, it’s not. Trump in particular seems to find facts — scientific or otherwise — to be a smorgasbord where you can pick what you want, regardless of quality. Still, in the MIT community, everyone believes in science, so why say it?

For any member of our community who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help. We pledge to work with all members of the community – students, faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers, and administrators – to defend these principles today and in the times ahead.

Comments: This gets to the real message. If you sign this, you agree to help people who now feel oppressed. (“Oppression” is one of those words which, in a political context, ought to make you skeptical about what you’re reading.) Consider the plight of the Trump supporter on the MIT campus, though. Might that person feel like they’re in an oppressed minority?