Professor Hopes for Insight Into ‘What MIT Did or Didn’t Do’ in Swartz Case

Hal Abelson, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who is leading a review of the university’s role in the prosecution of Aaron H. Swartz, the Internet activist who killed himself this month, said in an open letter on Wednesday that he hoped to release a report on the first part of his investigation within a few weeks.

The letter was published online by The Tech, a student newspaper at MIT. In it, Mr. Abelson, who is a professor of computer science and engineering, notes the damaging effect of the public questions swirling about MIT’s role in the case. He quotes a statement made by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Mr. Swartz’s partner, at a memorial service last week: “He faced indifference from MIT, an institution that could have protected him with a single public statement and refused to do so, in defiance of all of its own most cherished principles.”

Mr. Abelson writes that he doesn’t know if that statement is accurate or fair, “but it demands our response.” He adds: “I hope this review can provide some insight into what MIT did or didn’t do, and why.”

Establishing a “clear record of what happened” is the task of the first phase of the review, he writes, and members of the MIT community are invited to submit questions and issues to guide that work. He adds: “A second phase, where we all deliberate over implications, will follow.”

MIT is refraining from commenting on the events under review until Mr. Abelson’s report is released. The university’s president, L. Rafael Reif, urged the professor in a letter this week to conduct the review “as rapidly as you can responsibly.”

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