MIT Parents Press School To Address 'Threatening' Anti-Israel Disruptions

One student group has pledged to shut down 'business as usual at MIT' during upcoming semester

Sally Kornbluth (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
January 27, 2024

A group of concerned parents is urging the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to impose "serious consequences" on student protesters who violate school rules and disrupt class, accusing university leaders of failing to provide "an atmosphere conducive to learning" in the wake of Hamas's Oct. 7 attack.

In a letter sent to MIT president Sally Kornbluth and other top officials, the parents expressed "serious concern about the spring 2024 semester," citing anti-Israel student groups' "threatening acts" and vows to escalate their demonstrations. One such group, MIT Coalition Against Apartheid, is threatening to shut down "business as usual at MIT until Palestine is free," rhetoric that reflects the need for MIT to "strictly" enforce its harassment and bullying policies and "restore a serious and respectful learning environment," according to the parents.

"Last fall, our children came to campus expecting an atmosphere of learning and instead were subjected to frequent protests and disruptions," the parents wrote. "This cannot continue. Our students deserve an atmosphere conducive to learning and growth, and it is the responsibility of the administration to provide it."

The letter comes as MIT faces a congressional investigation over its response to campus anti-Semitism.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce launched that investigation following Kornbluth's disastrous congressional testimony on the issue, during which she and other university leaders said that calls for the genocide of Jews may not violate their policies. Kornbluth faced calls to resign in the wake of the hearing but remains in her post, unlike former Harvard University president Claudine Gay and former University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill, the hearing's other participants.

During the hearing, members of Congress pressed Kornbluth on her response to an infamous Coalition Against Apartheid protest that took place in early November. During the demonstration, members occupied MIT Lobby 7—a campus hub that leads to classrooms and faculty offices—for more than 13 hours, despite a school policy prohibiting demonstrations in the area.

Kornbluth originally pledged to suspend participants who remained in the lobby but went on to water down her disciplinary action, with the participants instead receiving a "non-academic suspension," which allowed them to continue attending class. Kornbluth suggested in a statement that a harsher punishment could have led to the deportation of foreign students.

For Judy Rosman, one of more than 50 MIT parents who signed the letter, the school has created "tremendous stress among our Jewish students" by going easy on rule-breaking agitators.

"MIT's administration aids anti-Israel activists in justifying the murder of innocent Israelis by letting them spread lies about the Jewish State, such as that it engages in 'ethnic cleansing,' 'genocide,' 'war crimes' and 'apartheid,'" Rosman told the Washington Free Beacon. "The result of MIT's utter failure to prohibit the promotion of blatant lies against Jews and the Jewish state creates tremendous stress among our Jewish students."

Elad Levy, another parent who signed the letter, echoed Rosman, saying he and other signees "expect that MIT upholds its responsibility to safeguard our children."

"As a parent of an MIT student, we all shared in the pain and distress my daughter experienced as she tried to circumvent disruptive protests that called for the annihilation of her homeland," Levy said.

MIT spokeswoman Kimberly Allen said the school plans to send students a message "reiterating MIT's standing policies on harassment and discrimination" ahead of the spring semester, which begins on Feb. 5.

"MIT and President Kornbluth have consistently called out antisemitism and have worked continuously with students, faculty, and others on campus to ensure the community is safe and welcoming," Allen said.