MIT Free Speech Alliance Receives $500,000 Stanton Foundation Grant

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The MIT Free Speech Alliance (MFSA), a rapidly growing not-for-profit advocacy organization of more than 800 MIT community members, has received a $500,000 two-year grant from the Stanton Foundation to advance its mission of free speech and expression, viewpoint diversity, and academic freedom at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"This generous seed grant will put us on a path to self-sustaining growth," said MFSA President Charles Davis ’87. "These funds, along with alumni donations, will enable us to hire professional staff to complement our large team of dedicated volunteers, expand and strengthen our free speech programming and outreach, and support our watchdog activism, helping MIT remain the premier engineering and research institute in the world despite adverse cultural forces threatening all American universities."

"Frank Stanton was a fierce advocate for the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of thought and expression. The goals of the MFSA align directly with the principles and values about which Frank Stanton cared so deeply. The Stanton Foundation is pleased to provide this grant to the MFSA, knowing that it will be used to strengthen MIT’s deep commitment to free speech and programming and to enlist the University’s extraordinary alumni from around the world in this effort," said Steve Kidder, spokesperson for the Stanton Foundation.

The MFSA was founded in October 2021 to protect the free speech rights of students, faculty, and staff at MIT. Concerns about ideology infringing on open expression at MIT crystallized in the fall of 2021 when noted geophysics Professor Dorian Abbot was disinvited from giving the prestigious Carlson Lecture due to his unrelated op-ed favoring hiring by merit over identity. In response to protestations from both the MFSA and concerned faculty, MIT created the Free Expression Working Group to review MIT’s free expression policies and practices.  MFSA advocates for MIT – and all universities – to adopt the Chicago Principles of freedom of expression, as some 80 universities have done.

MFSA services and programs established thus far include a library of online free speech resources, the MFSA blog, a Free Speech Hotline where MIT faculty, students, and staff can report speech suppression incidents, and a Concerned Donors Fund through which alumni can target donations to support free speech programs at MIT (an initiative distinct from donating to support the MFSA itself).  MFSA is a member of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) created in 2021, together with sister organizations at Cornell, Princeton, Yale, the University of Virginia, and more.

The Stanton Foundation was created by Frank Stanton, who served as CBS president for 25 years starting in 1946. Stanton is widely regarded as one of the television industry’s founding fathers, creating the first modern presidential debate and coast to coast news program.

The Stanton Foundation’s mission includes protection of First Amendment rights and the larger challenge of creating a more informed citizenry. Besides MFSA, other major Stanton Foundation "free speech" grantees include, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), FIRE, and support for First Amendment clinics at ten highly regarded law schools.

: @mitfreespeech  

Contact: Press Officer Eric Rasmusen, ’84 Ph.D,
, (812) 345-8573 (Eastern)

SOURCE MIT Free Speech Alliance