MIT Suspends Anti-Israel Student Group Over Unsanctioned Protests

After skirting discipline last fall, MIT Coalition Against Apartheid can no longer organize on campus

February 14, 2024

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology suspended an anti-Israel student group that has held unsanctioned demonstrations on campus in the wake of Oct. 7, with university president Sally Kornbluth saying the group disrupted and endangered students.

MIT Coalition Against Apartheid "once again conducted a demonstration on campus without going through the normal permission processes that apply to every student group at MIT," Kornbluth said in a Tuesday video. As a result, the group cannot use MIT facilities or "organize any further protests or demonstrations anywhere on our campus" until the school's discipline committee "makes a formal determination" regarding Coalition Against Apartheid's conduct.

"We have clear [and] reasonable time, place, and manner policies in place for good reason. The point of these policies is to make sure that members of the MIT community can work, learn, and do their work on campus without disruption," Kornbluth said. "We also need to keep the community safe, and we can't do that without enough advance notice to organize staff and police resources. That's why we have the rules."

The move comes one day after Coalition Against Apartheid held a Monday evening "emergency speakout" protesting an Israel Defense Forces mission that led to the rescue of two Hamas-held hostages. The unsanctioned demonstration, which coincided with an MIT-organized panel on anti-Semitism, saw Coalition Against Apartheid members accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, a video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon shows.

Such demonstrations are par for the course for Coalition Against Apartheid. In November, for example, the group's members occupied Lobby 7—a campus hub that leads to classrooms and other faculty offices—for roughly 14 hours, violating school policy in the process.

MIT staff warned participants they would be suspended if they remained in the area, but after the protesters refused, Kornbluth watered down her disciplinary threat. Instead of a full suspension, students involved in the protest received a "non-academic suspension" that allowed them to continue attending class.

It's unclear whether Kornbluth will take more aggressive action against the students now. In a Tuesday statement, Coalition Against Apartheid said MIT "issued sanction letters to 13 student organizers threatening us with permanent suspension." The statement also compared the group's fight against the Jewish state to the civil rights movement.

"We must realize, as Martin Luther King, Jr. did, that 'a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,' and we must act with due urgency when over 35,000 people have been massacred and millions continue to be ethnically cleansed," the group wrote in a misquote of King. In his 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," King wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

In her Tuesday video, Kornbluth said the suspension of Coalition Against Apartheid "is not related to the content of their speech," adding that "there is a difference between what we can say—that is, what we have a right to say—and what we should say." Kornbluth went on to urge MIT students to "express our views with a basic sense of respect and empathy for members of our community."

Coalition Against Apartheid during its Monday protest rejected that call for dialogue, with one speaker saying he can have "no f—ing dialogue" with Israel's supporters.

"We're tired of 'Dialogues Across Difference,'" the speaker said, referencing an MIT speaker series meant to ease campus tensions. "There could be no f—ing dialogue across difference when bombs are being rained down from one side to destroy, annihilate, ethnically cleanse, and murder the entire people on the other side. What the f— are we gonna talk about?"

MIT is not the first high-profile American university to crack down on an anti-Israel group over school policy violations. Columbia University, George Washington University, and Brandeis University last year suspended similar groups over policy violations.