Patterico's Pontifications

5/7/2024

MIT Faces Down the Protesters

Filed under: General — JVW @ 4:25 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology had been doing okay for itself rebounding from the fairly weak testimony of its president, Sally Kornbluth, in that disastrous House hearing back in December which derailed the careers of Claudine Gay and Liz Magill of Harvard and Penn respectively. President Kornbluth had given, at least in my partisan eyes, a slightly better performance than her two colleagues, being far more inclined than they to acknowledge calls for Israel’s destruction are anti-semitic. Still, she failed to placate all of the Institute’s alumni, but given the fact that she had not yet been in her role for a full year, the MIT Corporation resisted calls to remove her.

To address some qualms that alumni had over the prospect of MIT becoming yet another way station for the anti-Israel radical left, the Institute took some concrete steps to show that they would not tolerate intimidation or discrimination. In response to pro-Hamas students blocking access to a main lobby of the major academic building on campus, MIT suspended the rancid Students for Justice in Palestine organization, decertifying it as an official campus organization and not allowing its members to hold events on campus. The administration also very clearly outlined what constituted legitimate protest protected by First Amendment rights, versus what constituted unlawful assemblies and harassment. They were not so forthcoming about potential consequences for violating these policies, beyond the typically banal invocation of “resolution pathways” and the other administrative gobbledygook so popular in academia.

And so when the various building takeovers, lawn encampments, disruptive marches, and the like started sprouting out around campus, MIT found itself once again dealing with how to adequately respond. Interestingly enough, during this period MIT made the surprise announcement that they would be dropping required “diversity statements” for potential faculty hires, a move which no doubt chapped the hide of the campus crybullies.

But that small measure was swamped in the campus news cycle when pro-Hamas students and local community agitators did their thing and over the weekend set-up an encampment in an area called Kresge Oval which is surrounded by Kresge Auditorium, the student center, the MIT Chapel, and some dormitories. On Monday, the administration said “no, no” and gave the students until 2:30 pm to evacuate the area or else face disciplinary action. By the time the deadline had arrived the majority of students had voluntarily left, though some hardcore students remained, risking suspension according to official policy. Once a nearby pro-terrorist street rally ended a few hours later, however, the students broke down barriers and reentered the encampment. The administration estimates that about 150 students are now camped out on Kresge Oval, and there doesn’t seem to be much impetus to remove them. Commencement is still three weeks away.

MIT now finds itself in a difficult situation partly of its own making. Previously, the administration had announced the penalties for students who failed to leave the encampment in a timely manner. They consisted of an immediate suspension from all MIT activities including classes (final exam week begins May 17) and commencement ceremonies for any students who were not previously involved in a disciplinary issue. These students would be allowed to remain in campus housing and to use the campus dining facilities. Students who were already involved in a campus disciplinary proceeding would also be banned from MIT activities and they would further be required to immediately vacate any campus housing and prohibited from eating in campus dining. They would be effectively banned from campus (with the exception of the health services center) until their case is adjudicated.

It seems to me that there is simply no way that MIT can go back on this threat, no matter whose ox is gored. Certainly not all of the 150 unhappy campers are students or even affiliated with the Institute, but the student presence will no doubt be significant enough that at least a few dozen students will not be able to take final exams or defend their theses, and some who had planned to graduate will thus find their status imperiled. It would be the easiest thing in the world for the MIT Administration to be exceedingly lenient and cut these students some slack, but they absolutely should not do so. It will also be tempting for sympathetic faculty to decide to waive the final exam or to perhaps move the thesis defense off campus, but the administration needs to clamp down on that nonsense too. This is the message that I, as an alumnus, will be relaying to the administration. The acronym FAFO is being used quite a bit these days, and I think it is imperative that it be firmly applied at my alma mater.

– JVW


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