Mar. 12 Open Letter about broken promises

March 12, 2024

Sent to President Kornbluth and other members of the administration

Dear President Kornbluth,

When we met with you in February, we were encouraged by your stated aim to establish open communication and a long-term trusting relationship with the MIT Jewish community. We believed at that time that you were sincere when you declared that you wanted Jews to feel at home on the MIT campus.
We acknowledge the recent temporary suspension of the Coalition Against Apartheid (CAA) Student Group for its having violated MIT policies as a step forward.

Recent events, however, indicate that antisemitism at the Institute continues unabated, despite your declared aspiration to establish a safe and secure environment for all. It is evident that your staff—with no consequences—continues to subvert the intent of your decision to temporarily suspend CAA.
Furthermore, your administration’s view of discipline and its understanding of hate speech is clearly at odds with the views of the MIT Jewish community and the global community at large. When, as you requested, we reached out directly to your staff to address subsequent transgressions, we were met with
obfuscation, falsehoods, and hypocrisy. We wish to grow the open relationship we were led to believe you desired, but at this juncture, we see that our outreach and our fragile trust has been disrespected and frankly, broken.

Despite the temporary suspension of the CAA, its members continue to spread hate and antisemitism on MIT’s campus. What is the point of the temporary suspension if you allow and sanction such activities as their March 2, 2024 protest on the steps of MIT? What is the value of your declarations or your aspirations when, during the February 17 MIT-sanctioned and MIT-organized Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Gala, CAA leader and organizer Austin Cole turned the proceedings into a rallying cry for the reinstatement of CAA, all while accusing MIT of being complicit with Palestinian “genocide?” How can we accept your promises as genuine when, present at that event, you sat in silence while Cole culminated his remarks by inviting event participants to the stage to shout racist antisemitic chants. You, President Kornbluth, remained silent and did nothing to protest this bald-faced, abhorrent exhibition of antisemitism, either during the hate-based speech or during the racist chanting that followed. To make matters worse, some members of your own senior leadership team were filmed joining in these anti-Jewish chants. Although these staffers claim this was not an “official MIT event,” this is so clearly false as to be insulting to any intelligent person, particularly anyone connected with MIT. The MLK Gala event planning committee included MIT employees and MIT retirees. You and your senior leadership staff attended. How can we trust your words and the words of your leadership team when you and they falsely claim to have had no connection to this event?

This is not the only instance where your administration has violated our trust. During our February meeting, we expressed concern over some of the speakers invited by MIT to participate in the Standing Together Against Hate seminar series. We specifically raised concern regarding Dalia Mogahed who, by her justification of the October 7, 2023 massacre of Israeli civilians as “resistance” and as a “struggle against a colonial occupation force,” stands in direct opposition to the stated goal of “standing together against hate.” You responded to our stated concerns by expressing interest in our suggestion that MIT include, as an additional STAH Series speaker, Ambassador Dennis Ross, an expert in the Arab-Israeli conflict and widely known for his willingness to critically address both sides of the Middle East conflict.

Trusting you, we reached out to Dennis Ross and he confirmed his willingness to participate in the STAH seminar series. When attempts were made to move forward, however, your STAH Series planners informed us that Dennis Ross is not an appropriate speaker because they define him as “a politician.”

This statement is false and hypocritical. Dennis Ross has served in both Democratic (Clinton and Obama) and Republican (Bush 41) administrations and has never run for political office. Dalia Mogaded, selected and welcomed by the planners as a speaker suitable for the STAH series, has in common with Dennis Ross that she has also been a Presidential appointee; in her case in the Obama administration. She, too, has never run for political office. How does this background make Dalia Mogahed suitable for inclusion, yet disqualify Dennis Ross? Most likely, a presidential appointee is defined as a disqualified speaker only when that person may upset the “antisemitic applecart” that you admitted to us exists within the MIT community and within your leadership team.

Why, President Kornbluth, do you think MIT alumni are not intelligent enough to recognize an intentionally-applied double standard that applies only to Jews? Why does your administration think we lack the savvy to recognize the applied double standard and the hypocrisy of treating speakers who do
not blanketly condemn Israel and Jewish views differently from those who do? Given the facts, we conclude that racial and religious anti-Jewish bias is firmly embedded within MIT leadership and its decision-making staff. Moreover, this bias is a main driver of MIT-related decision-making. We see that MIT leadership’s false statements are now routine and made with antisemitic intent. It is a poor reflection of your administration, President Kornbluth. It is a poor reflection of you as MIT’s current leader and it
greatly sullies MIT’s once good name.

We have consciously chosen to focus our Open Letter on only two of the many egregious positions taken by you and others currently holding leadership positions at MIT. We believe both are emblematic of the
general atmosphere of antisemitic bias, Jew-hatred, and contempt for the Jewish community’s intelligence that exists throughout MIT leadership and, more broadly, the MIT community at large. We will follow this Letter soon with a piece that more comprehensively addresses the failed directives issued by those currently holding leadership positions at MIT and the toxic atmosphere that members of the Jewish MIT community now face on a daily basis.

In closing, we regret that you, your leadership team, and your decision-making staff have failed to uphold the promises you personally made to our representatives. We met you with open minds and with the hope that your words were trustworthy. Having seen the result, we state here firmly and clearly that we are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that MIT will again be an institution that welcomes, accepts, and supports its Jewish community, as it does all other communities. We will support leaders
who will ensure that members of the MIT community who do not uphold these values–who instead promote antisemitism, spread falsehoods, and hypocritically make false claims–will no longer be welcome within the walls of MIT.