MIT Faculty Editorial Calls for “Collective Acts of Resistance” Against Trump
March 3, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In the January/February 2017 issue of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Faculty Newsletter, an editorial signed by a group of faculty members at the university raises alarm at the words and actions of Donald Trump since he became president. The title of their statement raises the question: “Do We Act Now?” And they give a clear answer: “We believe that collective acts of resistance are necessary.”
Coming at a time when the Trump/Pence regime is moving quickly, taking one extreme step after another, in an effort to consolidate fascist rule in America, this statement from faculty members at MIT—considered one of the most prestigious universities in the world—is very timely and potentially of great impact.
The statement signers begin by pointing out the dangers of normalizing Trump: “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.”
They make a very important point about Trump’s attack on the scientific method: “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.”
Speaking to other members of the MIT faculty, the statement says that “it is not enough to add our individual voices in protest.” And they rightly call out examples in U.S. history when academics did NOT act as needed: “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 witch hunt.”
The statement writers say that it is important to actually name what is happening now as “the first steps toward authoritarian government or even fascism”—and that many of their colleagues will call such characterization “premature or extreme.” As the statement says correctly, “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.” Academics, the statement notes, “are often more comfortable creating the conditions to individually debate back and forth than collectively to act.” The statement argues for the urgency for breaking with these ways: “Trump presents us not with business as usual.”
The MIT faculty statement closes with a call to action: “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.”
The editorial statement has been signed by professors and other faculty members from a wide range of departments. We encourage everybody to read the entire statement, which is available online at the MIT Faculty Newsletter website, along with a list of signatories. Their statement reflects a moral stand on the side of the people and an understanding of the urgent dangers society and the world faces—it’s something to spread, learn from and be inspired by. And if those who signed the statement come under attacks from fascists—whether official or “unofficial”—they must be defended.
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