On May 5, MIT was honored with the 2022 Committee of 100 Distinguished Service Award for Courage in Countering Racial Profiling at the Committee of 100 Conference & Gala in Washington, D.C. for the Institute’s public support of its community members and of Professor Gang Chen. Professor Chen was arrested in January 2021 on allegations of grant fraud. In January 2022, all charges against him were dropped. Professor Chen has written and spoken about the support he received from MIT leadership and more than 200 members of the MIT faculty, including an editorial published in Science and on his website.
Richard Lester, Associate Provost for International Activities, gave the following remarks of acceptance at the gala on behalf of MIT:
To the Co-Chairs of the Committee of 100 Conference & Gala, Robert Gee and Charlie Woo,
To the Gala Contributor and Committee of 100 Member Maeley Tom,
To the Chair of the Committee of 100, Ambassador Gary Locke,
To the President of the Committee of 100, Zhengyu Huang,
Fellow Award Winners,
It is with deep gratitude that I accept this award on behalf of MIT President Rafael Reif and the whole MIT community.
That the group bestowing this recognition is the Committee of 100 is especially meaningful to us at MIT, because of how much our organizations have in common.
That begins with our deep connection to your founder and MIT’s legendary alumnus the late I.M.Pei, and to your co-founder and our wonderful neighbor and friend in Cambridge, Massachusetts Yo-Yo Ma – both of them great Americans.
At MIT we also share your dedication to the spirit of excellence and accomplishment in America.
In a letter to our community not long ago, President Reif observed that, “MIT has flourished, like the United States itself, because it has been a magnet for the world’s finest talent.” He went on to lament the atmosphere of mistrust and disrespect that so many of Chinese descent now encounter across America.
We know, in a very visceral way, that America would not be America without the dazzling array of achievements by Chinese Americans. Because neither would MIT.
We see this every day on our own campus… the extraordinary contributions that members of our community of Chinese origin are making today. And we know they continue to build on the brilliant efforts of their predecessors, over more than 140 years, stretching back almost to the day of our founding.
Indeed, in this challenging period of discord between the United States and China, the longevity of those contributions to MIT reminds us of the importance of taking the long view.
Over the long sweep of history, with its ups and downs in relations between nations, there are individual qualities that will – that must – never be devalued: the quality of excellence… and the quality of fairness in how we treat each other.
So when the shocking news of the prosecution of our eminent colleague and my very good friend Professor Gang Chen made clear that both of these values – excellence and fairness – were under attack, it was no surprise that hundreds of MIT faculty members spoke up and said: “We are all Gang Chen.”
When Professor Chen returned to MIT a year later, after all charges against him had been dropped, he told us how important it had been for him and his family to hear those words.
We had not known this at the time, because he was allowed no direct communication with us. It is painful, even now, to imagine how alone he must have felt, and how fearful.
Martin Luther King once observed that, “[I]n the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Well, Professor Chen’s friends and colleagues on the MIT faculty weren’t silent.
And President Reif wasn’t silent.
And the Committee of 100 isn’t silent either.
So, just as you have honored us tonight, we thank you for your courage in standing up for the members of the Chinese American community – our colleagues, and our friends – and for the values we share with you.
On behalf of President Reif, and all of us at MIT, thank you.