Reports of misconduct at MIT climbed in last academic year

CAMBRIDGE — The number of reported cases of student misconduct on MIT’s campus more than doubled in the 2011-2012 academic year, although officials largely attributed the jump to better reporting by students and professors.

The number of cases, which include academic misconduct, harassment, alcohol-policy violations, and assault, rose to 64, compared with 30 the previous academic year, according to a new report prepared by a faculty panel. The number of students who were sanctioned shot up from 27 to 57.

The increases were first reported in MIT’s student newspaper, The Tech.


“I think it doesn’t indicate any issues that are new,” said Robert Redwine, a physics professor who oversaw the compilation of the report. “We would all like to not need a Committee on Discipline.”

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Redwine stressed that despite the rise in reported infractions, the total numbers remained relatively small. “I think the system works pretty well. In general, our students behave appropriately,” he said.

The committee compiles a report on every academic year’s disciplinary issues annually, he said.

Allegations of harassment, which includes sexual misconduct, more than tripled, from five to 18, according to the report. Sexual misconduct encompasses a range of infractions.

“I personally think the increase is due primarily to more reporting. You can’t know for sure,” Redwine said. “We believe that word is getting out that there are resources if you believe you’ve been a victim. We do believe more people are coming forward.”


The university, he said, has worked to make information about sexual assault more available on campus, and has a team in the medical department that focuses on counseling victims.

Many students on campus Tuesday afternoon agreed.

“Overall, I certainly feel very safe on campus,” said Susan Shepherd, 24, a junior. “There have been major efforts in the past year and a half or so to make students more aware of the programs that are available. . . . They’re very much making an effort so that there is better reporting, and I think that probably shows.”

Senior Shannon Yang, 22, rattled off a list of programs she knew off the top of her head that students could turn to if they needed help or were victims of an assault.

“There’s a lot of support groups out there,” she said.


Redwine said he did not have a breakdown of how many cases of harassment were sexual in nature, but said it was “most.”

‘I personally think the increase is due primarily to more reporting. You can’t know for sure.’

Redwine said he did not believe any of the complaints led to criminal charges, though some students were removed from campus. It is up to the victim, he said, to decide whether to press criminal charges.

Other reported cases:

 Allegations of cheating more than quadrupled, from four in the 2010-2011 school year to 17.

 Plagiarism stayed level at 13 cases, and accusations of unauthorized collaboration dropped from eight to two.

 Alcohol policy violations were up to 16 from one the previous year, although Redwine said that was largely due to one case.

 Unauthorized access complaints, when students are in restricted areas — such as the university’s famed dome — were up from 14 to 21.

 Assault and reckless endangerment dropped from 19 to five, and other violations, which were mostly property damage and disorderly conduct, dropped from 28 to 26.

Sanctions meted out by the university included two suspensions, four students put on probation, and three ordered to pay restitution; 40 students received informal letters in their files.

Nearly three-quarters of students accused of misconduct were male. In the fall of 2012, women made up 45 percent of the undergraduate class at MIT and 31 percent of the graduate class, according to a spokeswoman.

“While I am always discouraged by the existence of any misconduct, I am encouraged to see that students and faculty are becoming increasingly comfortable in raising concerns about possible misconduct,” William E. Grimson, MIT chancellor, said in a statement. “As Professor Redwine has pointed out, there have been a number of efforts . . . to increase awareness among faculty and students about the resources available to them if they know of or experience misconduct. I’d personally like to see those efforts continue — just as I want to see us continue outreach efforts aimed at preventing misconduct in the first place.”

Evan Allen can be reached at