‘Two Down’: MIT President Vows To Reassess Policies After Counterparts Resign

Sally Kornbluth (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
January 3, 2024

The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that the school would reassess several policies after two Ivy League presidents embroiled in controversy resigned their positions.

"We have been listening to our community and working steadily for many weeks to identify the issues that most urgently need our attention," President Sally Kornbluth wrote in a letter to the school. "As we begin this new year, I want to name the challenges I’m seeing and hearing about, and put us on a path to solving them together."

The letter comes almost a month after Kornbluth gave congressional testimony along with Liz Magill of the University of Pennsylvania and Claudine Gay of Harvard University. The three women did not offer clear answers to Rep. Elise Stefanik's (R., N.Y.) question of whether calling for the genocide of Jews violates their schools' codes of conduct. Magill and Gay have since resigned from the university presidencies they held at the time.

Kornbluth committed in her missive to taking "four immediate steps" related to the school's disciplinary process, commitment to freedom of expression, DEI programs, and campus climate survey.

She wrote that there had been "frustration in the community with respect to the timeliness, accountability and transparency of our disciplinary system," and vowed to form a committee to offer recommendations on handling cases of alleged student misconduct.

"The committee will consider pivotal questions," she wrote, "such as if we’re striking the best balance between confidentiality and transparency, and between speed and fairness; and whether there are ways to achieve more consistent application of policies."

Kornbluth announced the formation of another committee to educate the community on their "rights and responsibilities" involving freedom of expression.

"In practice, it’s clear that we need a better sense of how to navigate the principles of freedom of expression, which we must protect, and the need to guard against harassment, bullying, intimidation and discrimination—policy violations that must be subject to discipline," her letter read.

The third step was looking at DEI policies.

"While we address the pressing challenge of how best to combat antisemitism, Islamophobia and hatred based on national origin or ethnicity in our community, we need to talk candidly about practical ways to make our community a place where we all feel that we belong," Kornbluth wrote.

She added that the school will "reflect on and comprehensively assess the structures and programs intended to support our community and create a welcoming environment."

Finally, Kornbluth announced that the school's forthcoming campus climate survey would include a series of "focused questions" to help understand the problem of "antisemitism, Islamophobia and hatred based on national origin or ethnicity on campus."

Kornbluth is the last of the three university presidents who testified at the early December hearing to remain in office.

Magill resigned days after the hearing, prompting Stefanik to respond to the development in a statement saying, "One down. Two to go."

Gay resigned on Tuesday after she faced criticism for her testimony and received nearly 50 allegations of plagiarism related to 8 of her 17 published academic works, many of which the Washington Free Beacon reported. Stefanik responded to the report in a post on X, formerly Twitter, writing, "Two down," and calling Gay an "anti-Semitic plagiarist president."

After Gay's resignation, critics of the Ivy League presidents shifted their focus toward Kornbluth.

"Et tu Sally?" investor Bill Ackman, who has also heavily criticized Gay, wrote on X Tuesday. Stefanik said on X Wednesday that MIT's "silence is deafening," adding that "accountability is coming."