On the evening of Nov. 17, MIT faculty, staff, and students came together to affirm — through words and music — the enduring values and purposes that unite the community. Some 150 people gathered in Lobby 10 for a program of music from many traditions, interwoven with reflections from faculty and students. Against the backdrop of a changing political landscape, themes of mutual respect, inclusivity, and dedication to making a better world echoed through the evening.
Festival Jazz Band, directed by Fred Harris, Jr., performing "No Walls," by MIT composer Mark Harvey
Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, whose office sponsored the event, opened the evening saying, “At this time of change, it is important that we lift up and celebrate our commitment at MIT to our ongoing values of discovery, freedom of expression and thought, and respect for all people.”
MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88, was next of six speakers. “At MIT,” she said, “we respect and celebrate our diversity. We seek the facts, believe in science, and roll up our sleeves to solve hard problems. We are open minded, inclusive, and kind. We listen intently and we speak up for what is right. We embrace our responsibility to invent a brighter future for all of humanity. These are MIT’s values and MIT’s path. They always have been — and I can promise you that nothing will change our course.”
Many students in the audience welcomed these statements of solidarity around MIT’s guiding values.
Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
The musical program began with a performance of the majestic “Andante Festivo,” a single-movement hymnic work by Jean Sibelius. The tone poem, composed to give his country moral support, was performed with flowing, melodic nuance by members of the MIT Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Adam Boyles.
Members of the MIT Chamber Chorus and Concert Choir, under the direction of William Cutter, performed “The Reason Why the World,” composed by Professor Peter Child for MIT’s 150th anniversary, with text from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature.”
The MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble, coached by Liz Tobias, performed “Thou Shalt,” by composer Naomi Crellin, a mesmerizing a cappella work of sustained vocal harmonies that were, by turns, hushed and full, with clear sweet sounds over a deep resonant rumbling.
Between the musical performances, students reflected upon the strengths of the MIT community and on how valuable it is to listen to one another in a spirit of mutual respect.
“Students of every historically oppressed group are scared and face outspoken threats,” said Billy Torres, sophomore in electrical engineering and computer science and head of Spanish House. "And yet at MIT, I see people smart enough to acknowledge the issues, and strong enough to overcome the fears facing them.”
Billy Torres, sophomore in electrical engineering and computer science and head of Spanish House
Caroline H. Mak, a junior in electrical engineering and computer science and a member of MIT Democrats, offered a unique take on the Institute’s core values, speaking as if MIT itself were applying to attend the Institute. Responding to actual Admissions Office essay prompts such as "Which program or major appeals to you?" and "What personality attribute you are most proud of?,” Mak’s “MIT” replies were: “I am now 145 years old and I want to major in diversity. I want to continue making history in ways I can’t even imagine right now.”
Caroline H. Mak, a junior in electrical engineering and computer science and a member of MIT Democrats
The event was organized and shaped by Fred Harris Jr., Agustin Rayo, Evan Ziporyn, Clarise Snyder, and Joe Coen, in collaboration with Adam Boyles, Gayle Gallagher, Mark Harvey, Lianne Scott, Meredith Sibley, the MIT Campus Activities Complex, and MIT SHASS Communications.
Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial team: Leda Zimmerman, Emily Hiestand
Photography: Jon Sachs