MIT: Disclose Whether Confidential Mental Health Data Was Used For Punitive Actions
MIT should disclose whether confidential mental health survey data were used punitively to restrict access to a historically LGBT-friendly residence and to publicly shame its residents.
MIT: Disclose Whether Confidential Mental Health Information Was Used For Punitive Actions
We the undersigned, being past, present and potential future members of the MIT Community, mental health providers and professionals, and interested citizens ask that MIT disclose whether it used confidential mental health information as the basis for punitive actions announced on June 10, 2016. We seek other explanations as well.
On June 10, 2016, MIT officials announced closure to an entire freshman class of one of its facilities, a 100-year old, 140-person residence with a decades-long history of LGBT concentration , citing, among other issues, illegal drug use. No substantiation for these comments about criminal drug use has been put forth to date.
The senior officials' comments were made as publicly as possible via sudden, simultaneous posting worldwide on MIT's official web site , in a letter to the students' parents , an interview with the campus newspaper , letters to the alumni of the residence , and only lastly, to the residents themselves .
These comments, branding everyone in the residence as an illegal drug user, were made so as to impede as much as possible any input or comment from any source. The residents were caught completely unawares , and the campus news interview was held, at the officials' initiation, just hours before press time and with no advance clue as to the topic, preventing the interviewers from preparing intelligent questions or seeking comments from those affected . Subsequently, the closure decision was announced on MIT's Housing web site for prospective students and their parents, in large brightly-colored red letters , and with a link to the official MIT web page  with the comments about illegal drugs. The decision to close off this residence to an entire class has met with widespread opposition from the present and past residents and considered harmful by many . The suddenness of the decision, lack of involvement of those affected, and widespread communication give it a strongly punitive nature.
With no justification for these incendiary comments, and putting aside the possibility that MIT is simply making them up -- while at the same time not being so naive as to deny that MIT doesn't have any university's issues with drugs -- we are concerned about what fact basis MIT has for making them with such confidence as to be trumpeted around the world, without the benefit of any visible input from those about whom they are made. In particular, we are concerned that MIT may have used confidential mental health survey data , the only source that seems possible to arrive at such statistics at residence level. We are more specifically concerned about the prospect of MIT's surreptitiously cross-referencing confidential student survey identities with the out-of-survey MIT student residence directory to summarize the data, in a way that could not have been anticipated by those taking the supposedly confidential  survey.
The above concern notwithstanding, in the interest of fairness to the vast majority of law-abiding students who do not use illegal drugs, MIT should substantiate the comments made about them by senior officials  in any case.
It is too much of a burden to put on a student that he needs to worry if taking a survey  honestly could bring harm to himself and his community by having the results of that survey used as the basis for foolish and punitive decisions. It is further too much of a burden for us to worry about what other residence level decisions MIT could make with data inappropriately summarized by piercing the wall of confidentiality. Do we now worry next about closure of houses with high rates of depression?
We ask MIT to disclose the basis for the illegal drug comments, just as publicly as they were made.
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