Founding Document: 1968 MIT Faculty Statement

Below is the text of the Faculty Statement written at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in December 1968. This document was originally signed by 50 senior faculty members, including the heads of the biology, chemistry, and physics departments, and was later circulated to the entire faculty for endorsement. Faculty and student actions on the concerns that prompted this statement resulted in the founding of the Union of Concerned Scientists in early 1969.

Misuse of scientific and technical knowledge presents a major threat to the existence of mankind. Through its actions in Vietnam our government has shaken our confidence in its ability to make wise and humane decisions. There is also disquieting evidence of an intention to enlarge further our immense destructive capability.

The response of the scientific community to these developments has been hopelessly fragmented. There is a small group that helps to conceive these policies, and a handful of eminent men who have tried but largely failed to stem the tide from within the government. The concerned majority has been on the sidelines and ineffective. We feel that it is no longer possible to remain uninvolved.

We therefore call on scientists and engineers at MIT, and throughout the country, to unite for concerted action and leadership: Action against dangers already unleashed and leadership toward a more responsible exploitation of scientific knowledge.

With these ends in mind we propose:

  1. To initiate a critical and continuing examination of governmental policy in areas where science and technology are of actual or potential significance.
  2. To devise means for turning research applications away from the present emphasis on military technology toward the solution of pressing environmental and social problems.
  3. To convey to our students the hope that they will devote themselves to bringing the benefits of science and technology to mankind and to ask them to scrutinize the issues raised here before participating in the construction of destructive weapons systems.
  4. To express our determined opposition to ill-advised and hazardous projects such as the ABM system, the enlargement of our nuclear arsenal, and the development of chemical and biological weapons.
  5. To explore the feasibility of organizing scientists and engineers so that their desire for a more humane and civilized world can be translated into effective political action.

As a first step toward reaching these objectives, we ask our colleagues—faculty and students—to stop their research activity at MIT on March 4 and join us for a day devoted to examination of the present situation and its alternatives. On that day, we propose to engage in intensive public discussion and planning for future actions along the lines suggested above.

If you share our profound apprehension, and are seeking a mode of expression which is at once practical and symbolic, join us on March 4.