March 4, 2019, was the 50th anniversary of a major social justice effort that began as a teach-in at MIT and a strike against research. It was one of many activities in the late 1960s and early 1970s to address concerns about defense research on campus, the arms race, the Vietnam War, civil rights, and many other scientific, social, and cultural issues.
In 1969, on March 3rd and 4th, a series of talks and panel discussions was held at MIT, organized by MIT faculty members of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the student-run Social Action Coordinating Committee. The talks centered on issues relating science to government and society. It called for scientists to think critically about their research and what national policies their work was enabling. The talks were recorded, transcribed, and published as a book by the MIT Press.
A month later, MIT President Howard Johnson formed the Review Panel on Special Laboratories to examine the relationship between MIT and two of its laboratories: the Lincoln Laboratory and the Instrumentation Laboratory. The panel was asked "to evaluate the implications that the laboratories have for the Institute in its prime responsibility for education and research and in its responsibility for service to the nation." They reviewed the appropriateness of the laboratories' and their relationship to the on campus research and education programs.
The final report, issued in 1969, contributed to President Howard Johnson's decision that MIT would continue to manage Lincoln Laboratory but the Instrumentation Laboratory would be divested. The committee was then disbanded and the faculty voted in May 1970 to appoint a Standing Committee on Special Laboratories to report on MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) and other classified research on campus.
This Research Guide provides links to resources from the MIT Libraries general collections and the Department of Distinctive Collections, including the Institute Archives, to facilitate research about social justice and political activism at MIT.
For all reference requests, please use the form Ask Distinctive Collections.
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