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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  October 2001

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE October 2001

Subject:

MIT employee suspended and facing termination for flyering!!!]

From:

Charlie Welch <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 7 Oct 2001 08:41:46 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (183 lines)

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: MIT employee suspended and facing termination for flyering!!!
Date: Sun, 07 Oct 2001 02:03:19 -0400
From: Aimee L Smith <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask], [log in to unmask],
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Dear Cool people who know how to get things done,

URGENT ACTION REQUESTED

              MIT employee suspended and facing dismissal for voicing
         concerns about a multinational corporation's human rights
record.

Write letters to protect speech at MIT !!

1) Write to President Vest and Chancelor Clay *respectfully* urging them
to
  look into this very serious matter.

2) Talk to people you know and encourage them to write or call President
Vest
  and Chancellor Clay.  Fwd this message widely!

3) Write to MIT Social Justice Cooperative at [log in to unmask] to
get

  involved.

Details are given below. Forward this around, inside and outside of MIT.
More information also at: http://web.mit.edu/justice/www/acad_free.html
_______________________________________________________________________________

On thursday evening, a group of ethically concerned students attended a
Shell Recruiting event in order to shed light on Shell's history in
Nigeria.
The concerned students distributed flyers and asked questions to
recruiters
about
this history.

An MIT employee, who works in the building where the recruiting event
was
held, heard about the student's plans 30 minutes before it started and
decided
to join in. The employee, an administrative assistant, showed up after
work
around 6:00 pm, and helped pass out fliers made by the students (see the
flyer
at http:/mit.edu/aram/Public/shell/why-shell.pdf and other Shell links
at
http://mit.edu/aram/Public/shell). While the Shell representatives
were discussing Shell's policies on environmentalism and social
responsibility,
the MIT employee asked a question about Shell's role in pollution and
human
rights abuses in Nigeria. Neither the MIT employee nor the concerned
students
present at the recruiting event were disruptive and their questions were
posed
in a respectful and polite manner.

The next day, the said MIT employee received a suspension notice which
claimed that he:

     "... passed out an inappropriate flyer against Shell Inc.
     on Thursday evening at a Chemical Engineering Graduate recruitment
     event lead by representatives of Shell Inc. Although document
     dissemination is a type of freedom of speech, the nature of what
you
     passed out was inappropriate for an MIT employee ... as a result
     of your conduct last evening, you are being placed on a temporary
     suspension ... This suspension is immediate as of 5pm today,
     Friday October 5, 2001 ... the outcome will either lead to
     reinstatement of your appointment with BPEC/DMA or full
     dismissal."

The employee was ordered to surrender his keys, VIP card and MIT ID card
as well as disclose passwords to his MIT e-mail account, desktop, etc.

Apparently, the Chem E. department told the suspended employee's
supervisor
that he was considered a Chem E. "representative" since he works in the
building and was known by Chem E. people. In fact, it seems that the
MIT employee does not work for the Chem E. department, but for the
Dupont-MIT alliance (which has Chem E. professors in it, but is not
under
the Chem E. department's authority).

It seems that members of the Chemical Engineering department have
difficulty
understanding the concept of free speech. The crucial decision makers of
this case in Chem E. are fine with free speech as long as it is speech
they
agree with. MIT is a university, an institution of learning in which
free and
open debate is essential to its normal functioning. If merely
questioning
a corporation is prohibited on campus by MIT staff because that
corporation
gives money to MIT, we might as well stop calling MIT a university.

The actions against the MIT employee are a form of harrassment towards
the
employee specifically and a very powerful form of intimidation to all
other MIT employees who will effectively be silenced from expressing
their
views (even in off hours) because they fear losing their job. This
suspension sets a very disturbing precedent that will stifle free and
open
discussion on campus of most issues. It is also a blatant abuse
of power by certain members of the MIT community that cannot be
tolerated. Immediate action must be taken by the MIT community and
the administration to rectify the situation.

Notes:

(1) Recruiting events are information sessions to educate MIT students
about a particular company. While Shell spent much time talking about
its initiatives on environmental policy and social responsibility, it
systematically avoided educating people at the event about its well
documented role in environmental pollution and human rights abuses.
Since
the event is an educational occasion, MIT students and any other member
of the MIT community have the full right, in fact are obligated, for the
sake of balance, to fill in gaps in information that Shell
representatives systematically left out. What better place to do it
than at a meeting where Shell representatives are present to defend
the company's record ?

(2) Although the chemical engineering department claims they sponsored
the event, this is not mentioned on any of the flyers advertising the
event. One flyer was from Shell with no reference to MIT and another
flyer mentioned the MIT Career Services Office. The guidelines are very
clear on this. If an event is sponsored by several groups or
departments,
they must all be listed on the event's flyers. If a group is not listed
as a co-sponsor on any of the flyers, they cannot claim that they
co-sponsored the event.



__________________________________________________________

When writing emails, cc [log in to unmask] Paper letters seem to be
more
effective than email, but emails are also great.


Practical info:

      name: Vest, Charles M
     email: [log in to unmask]
     phone: (617) 253-0148
   address: 3-208, MIT
        77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139
     title: President

      name: Clay, Phillip L
     email: [log in to unmask]
     phone: (617) 253-6164
   address: 10-200
        77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139
department: Chancellor'S Office
     title: Chancellor Professor Of City Planning

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