Institute and Department Governance

Most of the governance of MIT happens through faculty committees at the institute, department, and division levels (here is a list of MIT's full senior leadership and organizational structure). There are dozens of standing committees devoted to specific topics at MIT and within its departments, as well as a number of ad hoc committees that are formed as the need arises, for example, for faculty searches.

As part of their jobs, MIT's faculty members are required to engage in not only research and teaching, but also service to the institute, which generally entails each professor serving on a number of committees. Committee service affects promotions, raises, and awards. Decisions about which faculty and staff members serve on which committees are made by the administration of each department.

However, you might not know that students serve on many of these committees as well, and there are many opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students to make their voices heard in MIT's decision-making processes. We highly encourage you to get involved! Below we outline opportunities to get involved:

Student governments

There are many student-run and student-elected bodies that participate in department and institute governance:

Physics Department-specific

  • Society of Physics Students (SPS) - the physics undergraduate student government. Elections are usually held in spring. 
  • Physics Graduate Student Council (PGSC) - the physics graduate student government. Elections are usually held over the summer, though new positions may arise throughout the year as needed (e.g. the addition of a non-academic careers task force in fall 2020). 


  • Undergraduate Association - at any one time engages about 200 representatives
    • Executive, legislative, and judicial bodies
  • Graduate Student Council - opportunities to get involved include:
    • 3 Physics Department Council representatives - chosen during PGSC elections each spring
    • Committees focused on specific interests, e.g.: Housing; External Affairs Board (policy); Orientation; the Muddy Charles Pub; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; etc.

Physics Department Committees

The Physics Department has a number of standing committees, such as the Admissions and Education Committees, as well as promotion committees. See a partial list of department committees here. One important committee to know about is Physics Council, which consists of the Department Head, Associate Department Head, Administrative Officer, as well as heads of each of the Divisions and Labs.

At any given time, there are about 15 committees active in the Department. Typical staffing is 4-10 faculty per committee and these committees usually include faculty and students. Faculty and staff committee representatives are traditionally chosen by the Physics Department administration. Here we describe opportunities for students to participate in department governance:

Physics Values Committee

  • 4 undergrads, 4 grad students, 4 research staff and postdocs, 4 non-research staff members, 4 faculty
  • Contact current committee members from your constituency (faculty, staff, postdoc, grad student, undergrad) to voice concerns or learn how to get involved
  • List of events

Colloquium Committee

  • Multiple faculty, 2 grad students, 1 undergrad
  • Contact your colloquium committee representatives, PGSC, SPS, or GWIP to voice concerns or get involved

Education Committee

  • Multiple faculty, 1 grad student, 1 undergrad
  • Contact your education committee representative, PGSC, or SPS to voice concerns or get involved

Graduate Admissions Committee

  • Multiple faculty + 3 graduate students
  • Contact your admissions committee representatives or PGSC to voice concerns or get involved

Admissions Advisory Council (GAGA)

  • In addition to the Admissions Committee representatives, PGSC convenes a standing admissions advisory team, Grads Advising Graduate Admissions (GAGA)
  • GAGA meets regularly with the Admissions Chair and Graduate Administrative Assistant to discuss the mechanics of the admissions process itself, but does not participate in applicant evaluation
  • Contact your GAGA representatives or PGSC to voice concerns or get involved

Visiting Committee

  • Every other year, a Visiting Committee evaluates our Department and recommends improvements. Students have opportunities to meet with members of the Physics Visiting Committee and express their concerns to this neutral third party.
  • The voices of visiting committees carry significant weight at MIT, and their feedback has historically led to major changes on campus, and their recommendations are sent to the Corporation (MIT's board of trustees), the senior administration, as well as department leadership and faculty. 
  • Notably, the writing of the Physics Community Values statement and the formation of the PVC was itself a recommendation of a visiting committee. 

Other Physics Committees and Task Forces

  • Contact PGSCSPS, or your research division to learn about opportunities as they arise, or to learn how to interface or advocate for requests to specific department committees.
  • For example, student opportunities in summer 2020 included:
    • MKI Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    • LNS Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    • CTP Strike for Black Lives planning committee
    • PGSC Task Force on administration of the written qual during the pandemic
    • Joint SPS-PGSC-faculty non-academic careers task force

School of Science Committees

MIT is divided into multple schools: Architecture and Planning; Engineering; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS); Management (Sloan); Science; and the Schwarzman College of Computing.

The School of Science includes the Departments of Biology, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Chemistry, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics. 

Leadership bodies in the School of Science include:

  • Science Council
  • Diversity Council
  • Gender Equity Council
  • Faculty Search Oversight Committee
  • Graduate Admissions Committee
  • Science Graduate Student Council - meets twice per semester to exchange ideas across Departments and advise the Dean. You can find the Physics graduate student representatives and their contact information here.

Institute Committees

At MIT, there are dozens of committees that manage wide-ranging aspects of research, academics, and campus life. There are many opportunities for students to serve on institute-wide committees, and the application process is usually run by the undergraduate and graduate student councils:

Some topics that specific committees focus on include:

  • Student life (e.g. student well-being,  family and work council, dining, health insurance)
  • Education (e.g. graduate programs, undergraduate admission and financial aid, distinguished fellowships)
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (e.g. title IX, sexual misconduct, race and diversity, legacy of slavery)
  • Physical spaces on campus (e.g. housing, libraries, W20, physical memorials, hobby shop)
  • Research policies (e.g. intellectual property, radiation protection, biohazards)
  • General topics (e.g. presidential advisory cabinet, corporation joint advisory committee on institute-wide affairs)
  • Ad hoc committees formed on special topics as they arise (e.g. Team 2020 focused on the covid pandemic)
  • And many more!

You can also contact your representatives: