Reaffirming Our Core Values

by Daniel Hastings, Dean of Undergraduate Education

The revelation and confirmation of Marilee Jones’ falsified academic credentials and subsequent resignation last week was a difficult and sad event for the entire MIT community. I hope we will all take some time to reflect on what we can learn from this experience and reaffirm our core values.

MIT is a complex, great community and organization. As we go about our daily tasks to advance the mission of MIT, we do so with an unwavering commitment to our core values, which include honesty and integrity. At MIT, we embrace integrity as fundamental to our ability “to advance knowledge and educate students.” 1 However, we must also recognize that integrity fosters an environment of mutual trust that is essential to our community. It is through mutual trust that we are able to collaborate and innovate to make the MIT educational experience a continuously better one. It is also through mutual trust that we are able to establish a helping relationship with our students.

In addition, we must all remember that we are role models for our students. As advisors and mentors, we choose to be active role models. However, as part of the administration, we are also visible role models. There is a clear understanding that we expect students’ values to evolve while they are at MIT. The statement on Education for Responsible Leadership in the Task Force Report states that to be successful leaders, students “…must develop personal priorities and a code of ethics to guide their future actions.” The question is what values do we want students to develop? On the MIT Learning Strategies page on academic integrity, we note that integrity is “a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility.” 2 If this is what we expect from our students, we should expect no less from ourselves. As role models, and as part of our DUE commitment to holistic student development, we must incorporate these values into our daily professional lives. I hope those of us who interact directly with students, will take this opportunity to talk to them about the importance and necessity of honesty and integrity in their academic, personal and future professional lives.

Finally, in light of the many positive contributions that Marilee made to MIT, a number of people across MIT have asked me if I could have acted differently. In making the decision to ask for her resignation, I was guided by MIT HR policy and practice as well as by the standards of behavior we all should expect from our staff and our students. Further, given how many people want to come to MIT, it is critically important that the admissions process and all the people associated with it are, and are seen to be, honest and above board.

I want to end by reiterating that I have every confidence in the great people in DUE. People who do their best every day and who I know can be counted on to help us fulfill our mission.

1 MIT Mission Statement
2 The Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University “Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity”