Many of MIT’s collaborative efforts with graduate student leaders over the past few years have been focused on helping graduate students who have faced acute financial and personal challenges. This approach has been advocated by the Institute’s student community, is in keeping with values, and informs MIT’s work to create a more caring and supportive environment for everyone.
Over the past five years, the MIT-student collaboration has led to numerous accomplishments, including:
- Greater financial security for all students: MIT’s cost-of-living-based stipend increases have outpaced nearly all of our peers, and those of private universities with graduate student unions.
- In response to student requests, MIT has invested in students with the most pressing needs: The Institute has established new programs and staffing, and has allocated approximately $1 million in grants for graduate students with families, students on short-term appointments, and doctoral students needing longer-term support.
- MIT has provided enhanced health and wellness support: It has added more support professionals and virtual visits. MIT Medical continues to offer excellent, low-cost, robust health insurance options, and has expanded access to behavioral health care.
- MIT has championed its international students: To help manage the challenges that the pandemic and other recent events have presented for its international graduate students, MIT allocated $5.8 million, and significant administrative resources, to facilitate roughly 1,300 remote appointments. In 2020, together with Harvard University, MIT successfully filed suit against ICE and the US Department of Homeland Security to prevent enforcement of a policy that would have barred international students on F-1 visas from taking a full online course load while studying in the United States.
- MIT has worked to build a more inclusive, supportive, and diverse community: It has hired school-based diversity deans, and fought for and won enhanced protections for international students. MIT’s Strategic Action Plan for Belonging, Achievement, and Composition, which was released in September 2022, is now being implemented.
- MIT has expanded the support networks for graduate students and is combating harassment in academia: It has invested additional resources in its Violence Prevention and Response and Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response (IDHR) offices; refined anti-retaliation policies; provided guaranteed transitional funding for students in unhealthy advising situations; and offered additional mentoring and harassment prevention training. Additionally, IDHR is now a central hub for reporting discriminatory treatment and publishes an annual report detailing the nature of discrimination, bias, and harassment cases handled by IDHR involving students, faculty, and staff.
- MIT has responded effectively to the challenges of the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, MIT offered its students generous assistance with housing costs, moving expenses, and other financial burdens associated with Covid-19.
- MIT has fostered the personal and professional growth of its students: It has enhanced advising and training. In a typical year, the Institute offers more than 40 workshops and panels through partnerships with 15 academic and administrative departments and a variety of focused career fairs and networking opportunities. New staff have been added within Career Advising and Professional Development and the Office of Graduate Education to support graduate students. Further, one of the key priorities of MIT’s Task Force 2021 is advancing improvements in advising and mentoring and opportunities for professional development and better preparation for student careers.
- In April 2022, the draft Strategic Plan on Graduate Advising and Mentoring – an exciting next step in the Institute’s ongoing efforts to support our graduate students and the faculty and thesis supervisors who advise and mentor them – was released.
Looking ahead, our goal remains steadfast: to continually enhance graduate student life and learning. To do so will mean creating the best possible working relationship with the new union and finalizing a contract that best supports the needs of all of our graduate students and furthers the mission of the entire Institute.