Apr. 22 Open Letter on encampments at MIT

April 22, 2024

Sent to President Kornbluth and other members of the administration

Dear President Kornbluth,

We have watched in dismay and horror the ongoing Antisemitic riots taking place at Columbia University, where rioters openly declare their support for Hamas with slogans such as: “We are Hamas!” and with arrowed signs pointing directly at Jewish students stating: “Al-Qasam’s Next Targets.” Jewish students have been repeatedly intimidated and assaulted. They have been subjected to Antisemitic bullying and to disruption of their campus academic and Jewish lives. They are also the target of the racist chants “We don’t want no Zionists here” and calls for their extermination ”From the River to the Sea.” The situation at Columbia has resulted in Rabbi Elie Buechler advising Jewish students there to “return home as soon as possible” because
“Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy.”

The Antisemitic riots at Columbia have been condemned by President Biden, by New York mayor Eric Adams, and by numerous members of the US government, including Rep. Virginia Foxx, who directly questioned you on December 5th. More than 100 participants in Columbia’s encampment have been arrested.

This flagrant expression of bigotry has now spread to MIT’s campus, where an encampment was set up yesterday adjacent to the MIT Jewish Hillel building one day prior to the Jewish holiday of Passover – the holiday where Jews celebrate their escape from slavery and persecution in ancient times. Moreover, as has been the case with all previous protests of this type at MIT, posters and materials employed by the protestors are standard-issue seen at
college campuses across the country, and many of the protesters in the encampment are not MIT students. It is clear from the riots and from the campus encampment at Columbia and now at MIT that the situation on MIT’s campus is escalating and becoming more volatile. The potential for violence is imminent. In the face of this, Jewish students at MIT have already begun
leaving campus for safety reasons, looking to shelter with relatives and friends off-campus.

The encampment and the continued Antisemitic activities on MIT’s campus are the direct consequence of your and your administration’s failure to address protestors’ numerous prior violations of MIT’s code of conduct, your failure to apply a working definition of Antisemitism, and your failure to mete out established punishments to students who participate in unsanctioned demonstrations and who repeatedly disrupt scheduled classes. In doing so, you have abdicated your responsibility as MIT President to address and to respond to the escalating threats faced by your Jewish students on campus. Rather than you or your administration developing an action plan to address this worsening harassment and increasingly threatening Antisemitic environment, it has been left to the Jewish students themselves to develop and provide you with a strategic plan as a part of the MIT Israel Alliance Statement issued yesterday to de-escalate and to address the real safety concerns faced by Jewish students on campus.

You have not kept your word to Jewish students, to Jewish faculty, or to Jewish staff within the MIT community. You have not kept your word to your Jewish MIT alumni. What we see unfolding here suggests that rather than working toward reestablishing a safe and welcoming institution that supports higher learning equally for all its members and is welcoming to students of all
religions and all races, your actions have instead encouraged and empowered those who wish to further intimidate and cause harm to your Jewish learners.

We call on your administration to take immediate steps now to dismantle the encampment established adjacent to the MIT Hillel building, to arrest all those participating in it and in the threatening protests emanating from it, to expel all student participants, and to effect a permanent policy that bans future takeovers of campus property by any group.

We, MIT’s Jewish students, faculty, staff, and the whole world are watching.