Logo for the Mapping Project

The Mapping Project


"MIT isn’t a center for scientific and social research to serve humanity. It’s a part of the US war machine. Into MIT flow over $100 million a year in Pentagon research and development funds, making it the tenth largest Defense Department R&D contractor in the country. MIT’s purpose is to provide research, consulting services and trained personnel for the US government and the major corporations – research, services, and personnel which enable them to maintain their control over the people of the world." -Old Mole, Nov. 1969

MIT supports and profits from war and imperialism, colonialism, Zionism, privatization, and gentrification. Throughout its history, MIT has played a central role in developing the tools used in US wars around the world, US "counterinsurgency" efforts against social movements at home, and Israel's colonial subjugation of Palestinians and systematic theft of Palestinian land and resources.

Land expropriation from Indigenous nations

MIT amassed considerable wealth through a series of colonial land grabs that dispossessed lands from this continent's Indigenous nations. The wealth MIT obtained through these land grabs played a critical role sustaining the university financially in its earlier days. As researchers Robert Lee and Christian Ahtone report in High Country News:

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which distributed public domain lands to raise funds for fledgling colleges across the nation. Now thriving, the institutions seldom ask who paid for their good fortune ... Behind that myth lies a massive wealth transfer masquerading as a donation. The Morrill Act worked by turning land expropriated from tribal nations into seed money for higher education. In all, the act redistributed nearly 11 million acres — an area larger than Massachusetts and Connecticut combined ... Our data shows how the Morrill Act turned Indigenous land into college endowments. It reveals two open secrets: First, according to the Morrill Act, all money made from land sales must be used in perpetuity, meaning those funds still remain on university ledgers to this day. And secondly, at least 12 states are still in possession of unsold Morrill acres as well as associated mineral rights, which continue to produce revenue for their designated institutions.

Commenting about their data on the state of Massachusetts, Robert Lee and Christian Ahtone note:

The state [of MA] split interest as 1/3 for MIT and 2/3 for University of Massachusetts. Both universities predated the Morrill Act but "the land-grant endowment put new life into both." UMass sold a block of 36,000 acres for $29,778.4 in 1864 to purchase a school site. The rest was sold over time until 1868. More specifically, 140,000 acres went between 1864 and 1866 for an avg. price of 81 cents. 220,000 acres were sold in 1867, some at 54 cents an acre, some at 58 cents per acre. All this, yielded another $205,509, which brought the total realized to $236,307.40.

Moreover, MIT has erased the legacy of one of MIT's "founding fathers," Francis Amasa Walker, in crafting federal policy responsible for the US government's violent dispossession of indigenous peoples. As Streven Senne reports

As the third president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Francis Amasa Walker helped usher the school into national prominence in the late 1800s. But another part of his legacy has received renewed attention amid the nation's reckoning with racial justice: his role in shaping the nation’s hardline policies toward Native Americans as a former head of the U.S. office of Indian Affairs and author of “The Indian Question,” a treatise that justified forcibly removing tribes from their lands and confining them to remote reservations ... “Walker might be the face of Indian genocide and it is troubling that his name is memorialized at MIT,” says David Lowry, the school’s newly-appointed distinguished fellow in Native American studies and a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

Support for US imperialism: MIT's roles in weapons development and counterinsurgency

Founded upon the expropriation of indigenous lands on this continent, MIT has played, and continues to play, a critical role in supporting US imperialism and US-dominated global capitalism. MIT helps the US government to dictate the political affairs of peoples across the Global South in order to exploit their resources for the benefit of the US, while violently overthrowing their attempts to engage in self-directed independent development. MIT has supported this agenda by: developing weapons for the state through close collaboration with major weapons companies, helping to shape the "policy" of the Pentagon, and developing counterinsurgency tactics for the US government. Indeed, during the height of the "Cold War," MIT was known as "Pentagon East" (and "Pentagon on the Charles"), because it was one of the Pentagon's largest contractors (Stanford was known as "Pentagon West"). MIT has contributed to weapons development through many of its academic departments as well as through weapons-focused laboratories such as MITRE, Draper and Lincoln laboratories, and other facilities affiliated with the US military and/or with corporations servicing the US military.

Through the social sciences, MIT has also helped the US craft its counterinsurgency tactics. Some of this work took place at MIT's Center for International Studies, which was funded in part by the CIA. The Center for International Studies has run projects such as "Com-Com Project," "International Communism Project," and "Project CAM" (also known as the Cambridge Project), each of which was about pacifying resistance to US's imperial aggression in Vietnam and elsewhere. Prominent MIT scientists such as Ithiel de Sola Pool and J.C.R. Licklider worked on and defended these projects.

In 1969, MIT's radical student newspaper, Old Mole, published an issue titled "Let's Smash MIT" that describes these counterinsurgency projects:

The Com-Com Project is directed by Ithiel de Sola Pool. Pool is a political ‘scientist’ who has spent much time in Vietnam in the past few years as part of the DoD’s [Department of Defense’s] Chieu Hoi program (a program to induce Viet Cong defection). Com-Com is a program of technical and communications research in psychological warfare. Com-Com is a program of technical and communications research in psychological warfare.

The International Communism Project was originally funded by the CIA (now by the Ford Foundation) to provide analysis of intelligence information about radical and revolutionary movements throughout the world on the basis of public documents...The US intelligence apparatus would like an independent check and analysis of this information done outside the government, which the project has provided.

Project CAM (or, the Cambridge Project): This project, conceived by Pool, former ARPA (Advanced Projects Agency of the DoD) official J.C.R. Licklider, and ARPA official Bob Taylor, will receive $7.69 million from the DoD over the next five years. It is intended to develop general theory which will help solve those DoD and US Government problems which are considered ‘behavioral-science problems’. It will use existing data collections of such things as interviews with NLF [Vietnamese National Liberation Front] defectors and peasant attitudes. As Pool has stated, ‘[Some students] are under the impression that the Project will deal with counter-insurgency problems and peasant attitudes. These topics of research are nothing new. They have been going on all the time in various sectors of the community. These areas would be strengthened by the project . . . ’

Today, MIT continues to support US imperialism. MIT maintains numerous collaborations with weapons developers and military R&D institutions, which supply weapons and provide ideological support to the US war machine (and frequently hosts war criminals from around the world as guests, lecturers, and faculty on its campus). As one example, MIT maintains a research collaboration with Lockheed Martin focused on "robotics and autonomous systems." MIT also funnels its students into collaborations with weapons developers. For example, MIT's Office of Minority Education (OME) facilitates a "six-unit interdisciplinary design course" for MIT students, through which MIT students "choose from two challenges developed by Lockheed Martin: generate mission plans that task a virtual aircraft to either retrieve water and suppress wildfires (Mission 1), or go on a virtual search-and-rescue mission and detect lost people on a map (Mission 2)." MIT also works collaboratively with MIT Lincoln Laboratory, which per their website "researches and develops a broad array of advanced technologies to meet critical national security needs," and supports the "development of tactical airborne and counterterrorism systems through systems analysis, rapid prototyping, and detailed, realistic instrumented tests." (See entry on MIT Lincoln Lab for more information).

MIT has also supported US-backed repressive regimes and war criminals. In 2018, for example, MIT hosted the Saudi-Crowned Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in the midst of Saudi Arabia's murderous siege and blockade of Yemen. MIT also appointed Luis Videgaray, a former minister within Mexico's deeply violent and repressive Peña Nieto government, as an MIT senior lecturer and as the Director of MIT's AI Policy for the World (AIPW) Project, a program within MIT's Sloan School and MIT's Stephen Schwarzman College of Computing.

MIT also makes an effort to indoctrinate the youth in the ways of US empire. The MIT School of Engineering runs the "MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute," in partnership with Lincoln laboratory. MIT describes MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute as "a rigorous, world-class STEM program for talented rising high school seniors," which "teaches STEM skills through project-based, workshop-style courses." In 2019, the Summer Institute expanded to also offer four-week courses to Boston area middle school students. Students participating in the MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute in 2019 were able to choose between four-week project-based courses, in which they received instruction not only from MIT and MIT Lincoln Labs staff but also from major weapons developers including Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and Raytheon.

2019 MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute students who selected the course run by Lockheed Martin worked in small teams under the guidance of MIT researchers and Lockheed Martin employees to design and build unmanned ground vehicles ("Autonomous RACECARs"), before racing their respective unmanned ground vehicles against other teams at the end of the four-week program. 2019 Summer Institute students who chose the course run by BAE Systems worked in small teams under the guidance of with MIT researchers and BAE Systems employees to design and build "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" (UAVs, i.e. drones), before competing against other teams in "racing challenges" using their respective UAVs at the end of the four-week program. 2019 Summer Institute students who selected the course run by Raytheon worked with MIT staff and Raytheon employees to design and build "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" (UAVs, i.e. drones) with "Synthetic Aperture Radar" (radar imaging) capacities, before competing against other teams "to form the best image of a secret challenge scene" using their respective UAVs at the end of the four-week program. (See also entries on Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and BAE Systems).

MIT Beaver Works Summer Institute is emblematic of the deep integration which exists between elite institutions of knowledge production (like MIT) and the US military-industrial complex. From an early age, MIT and the weapons companies with whom it collaborates guide impressionable high school and middle school students with a passion for STEM toward careers building products of death and destruction, like the unmanned land and aerial vehicles that the US and Israel utilize to enforce violent and repressive military operations worldwide.

Support for Israel and Zionism

MIT provides extensive support to Israel's colonial subjugation of Palestinians and systematic theft of Palestinian land and resources, through its numerous partnerships with Israel and Israeli companies.

MIT's MISTI-Israel program sends MIT students to Israel for exchange programs with multiple Israeli universities. MISTI-Israel includes an MIT partnership with the Israel-linked weapons developer Lockheed-Martin, through which MIT sends students to do work for Lockheed Martin in Israel. MIT has programs to send students to meet with IDF soldiers through what MIT calls the "Israel Security Seminar." MIT also has a partnership with the The Technion, an Israeli research university located in Haifa, through which MIT funnels its PHD graduates into post-doctoral positions at The Technion. Meanwhile, the MIT Industrial Liaisons Program fosters corporate partnerships with Israeli companies, including the Israel's largest weapons developer Elbit systems, while other MIT programs direct MIT students to positions in Israeli startups. MIT Hillel has also been promoting propaganda trips to Israel since at least the 1980s (source: p. 22 of this issue of the Tech from 1987, which promises a trip full of "special political and military briefings on location, visits to kibbutzim and settlements, cultural experiences, and social events.")

MIT also frequently hosts the architects of Israeli colonization of Palestine as faculty and honored guests on its campus. In 2001, for example, MIT hosted its distinguished alum Benjamin Netanyahu on the the MIT campus to discuss solutions to "terrorism." In addition to bringing the architects of Israeli colonization to its campus, MIT sends the architects of US violence and repression, the police, to Israel: As reported in 2016, MIT Police Chief John DiFava participated in a “counterterrorism seminar” in Israel, as part of an all-expenses-paid delegation of US law enforcement to Israel sponsored by the New England chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The New England chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sponsors annual all-expenses-paid delegations to Israel for high-ranking New England police, ICE, FBI, and other security officials, where these officials meet with Israeli military, police, and intelligence agencies, with whom they train and exchange tactics including surveillance, racial profiling, crowd control, and the containment of protests.

Contribution to local displacement ("gentrification")

Founded upon violent expropriation of lands from Indigenous nations and a consistent backer of US imperialism worldwide, it may come as no surprise that MIT now plays a central role in the mass displacement of Black and Brown working residents from Cambridge and other parts of the Boston area. According to a 2004 posting on MIT's website, "MIT owns 157 tax-exempt acres in Cambridge that are used for educational purposes and 84 acres of commercial land, making a total of 241 acres or 5.29 percent of the city's total land area." The posting further notes, "There are over 70 biotech firms located within a mile of the MIT campus. These companies, such a pharmaceuticals giant Novartis, have chosen to be near MIT in large part to have access to MIT's community of researchers and academicians." The land MIT owns along with the structures built upon it have a total estimated "value" of $7.35 billion, according to the state of Massachusetts (see: MassGIS statewide parcels dataset, 2021).

By gobbling up real estate and leasing land and buildings out to major tech, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies, MIT attracts a slew of new students, faculty, researchers, and other white collar workers into the Boston area. These transplants are, on average, wealthier and whiter than the pre-existing residents of the neighborhoods they move into, driving up housing, rental, and living costs (see figure below), and making it increasingly difficulty for long-time residents to afford to remain in the communities they have called home for years if not decades.

(Image source: here)

77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

Back to main page.