Martin Schmidt - MIT indefinitely removes online physics lectures and courses by Walter Lewin
MIT policy on sexual harassment was found to be violated.
December 8, 2014
MIT is indefinitely removing retired physics faculty member Walter Lewin’s online lectures from MIT OpenCourseWare and online MITx courses from edX, the online learning platform co-founded by MIT, following a determination that Dr. Lewin engaged in online sexual harassment in violation of MIT policies.
MIT’s action comes in response to a complaint it received in October from a woman, who is an online MITx learner, claiming online sexual harassment by Lewin. She provided information about Lewin’s interactions with her, which began when she was a learner in one of his MITx courses, as well as information about interactions between Lewin and other women online learners.
MIT immediately began an investigation, and as a precaution instructed Lewin not to contact any MIT students or online learners, either current or former.
The investigation followed MIT protocol for complaints of sexual harassment. The head of the physics department, Professor Peter Fisher, ensured an objective and timely review, which included a review of detailed materials provided by the complainant and interviews of her and Lewin.
Based on its investigation, MIT has determined that Lewin’s behavior toward the complainant violated the Institute’s policy on sexual harassment. Following broad consultation among faculty, MIT is indefinitely removing Lewin’s online courses, in the interest of preventing any further inappropriate behavior.
MIT President L. Rafael Reif says, “Students place tremendous trust in their teachers. Deserving that trust is among our most fundamental obligations. We must take the greatest care that everyone who comes to us for knowledge and instruction, whether in classrooms or online, can count on MIT as a safe and respectful place to learn.”
At the time MIT received the complaint, Lewin was not teaching any courses, either on campus or interactively online. Lewin retired from MIT in July 2009 and last taught a course on campus in spring 2008. He last taught an online MITx course in fall 2013.
Provost Martin Schmidt says, “Dr. Lewin had a long and distinguished career at MIT, and it is painful to learn of the behavior that necessitated this action. However, complaints of harassment must be met immediately and squarely in all cases. Today’s decision was made in consultation with faculty leadership both in the physics department and across MIT more broadly.”
The following information describes resources available to those who wish to discuss or report sexual misconduct at MIT.
To report an incident to the Institute:
For 24-hour support and information, or to report anonymously:
Violence Prevention and Response
To report a crime or for police assistance: