There are many things at MIT that I find I want to distance myself from (e.g., much of the military related research). Recently though, the MIT Libraries have been giving me a number of reasons to be proud to be an MIT graduate student.
MIT has taken the brave step of the being one of the first major research universities to throw a stone at the publishers in the whole Open Access, scholarly publishing debate. The libraries have put up a bunch of information on open access issues and have created a copyright amendment form for all scholarly publication that will allow the institute and its authors to retain copyright over their work for publication in the institute archives, on the author’s website, or even in an open access repository like PubMed Central. More importantly, MIT Libraries are offering to do all of the negotiation with the publishers on behalf of the authors. When it is MIT as a whole, and not just the one graduate student, post-doc, or professor on their own, it puts the authors in a much stronger to retain the openness of their work. It’s not victory, but it’s an important and essential step toward open access for scholarly publishing.
But that’s not it! The libraries have also recently stood up to Hoover’s Online’s attempt to hold the libraries responsible for, "activity Hoovers deemed — or even suspected — was fraudulent." When Hoover’s gave the libraries the choice of saying yes to a set of unreasonable terms or walking away from an important research tool, MIT Libraries made the difficult but correct choice and walked away. Making a choice like that will surely get the libraries a lot of flak from MIT scholars who use Hoover’s. But MIT made the right decision by standing up for their principles.
The effect of large, powerful institution like MIT is usually to maintain the status quo. There’s clearly a lot of external pressure from funders, politicians, etc. and internal pressure from academics and students who are doing well by the current system. MIT Libraries are using their power to make the whole system better and I haven’t ever been as proud to be an MIT student.