President Kornbluth testifies before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Antisemitism

Kornbluth: “There’s a difference between what we can say to each other – that is, what we have a right to say – and what we should say as members of one community.”

A Summon To Testify

MIT President Sally Kornbluth testified before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Dec. 5. The committee titled the hearing "Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism" in a press release dated Nov. 28. Harvard President Claudine Gay and former University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill, and Pamela Nadell, professor of history and Jewish studies at American University, were present alongside Kornbluth. 

The Testimony

In her opening statement, Kornbluth stated that she "abhor[s] antisemitism" and said that her administration "is combatting it actively." She added that since Oct. 7, her campus communications have been "crystal clear about the dangers of antisemitism and about the atrocity of the Hamas terror attack."

With regards to the chants in recent demonstrations, Kornbluth believes that "there's a difference between what we can say to each other – that is, what we have a right to say – and what we should say, as members of one community."

Kornbluth said that "the right to free speech certainly does not extend to harassment, discrimination or incitement to violence in our community." She added that policies have been established to "regulate the time, place, and manner of demonstrations" and that "reports of student conduct that may violate our policies are handled through our faculty-led Committee on Discipline."

Kornbluth said the administration "is intensifying our central efforts to combat antisemitism." She noted that she is "deeply concerned about the rise in prejudice and hatred against Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians, nationally and in our community, and we are determined to combat that as well." 

Kornbluth noted efforts amongst members of the MIT community to "counter hate." She said, "thanks to an inspiring group of faculty members, we are seeing more discussion among students with conflicting views."

Kornbluth concluded, "We know there is further work to do. But we are seeing progress. And MIT's vital mission continues."

A contentious hearing followed. Representatives questioned the presidents, including President Kornbluth.

Kornbluth stated, "college campuses are a crucible of ideas where students are side by side." She highlighted that "speech can be a form of harassment and our policies make absolutely clear that harassment is punishable."  

Kornbluth added, "Coming from a majority STEM institution, I cannot even think of a place where it's even more important for our students to also learn the humanities…we all have to live and work together as people and in order for us to be successful." 

The Aftermath

Later on the afternoon of Dec. 5, Kornbluth wrote in an email to the MIT community saying that in the weeks following Oct. 7, students, faculty, and staff "have shared with me a wide range of views on the tragic situation in the Middle East and on its repercussions on our campus." She stated that every conversation has taught me something important." 

Kornbluth highlighted the Institute's new effort, "Standing Together against Hate." She also noted a faculty letter that states "we must maintain and strengthen the bonds of friendship and collegiality that cut across political, ethnic, and religious differences, especially in the face of the rising tides of violence and hatred abroad and on university campuses."

In concluding her email, Kornbluth said, "We cannot and must not let events in the world drive us apart, or erode our respect for each other's humanity, or thwart the great mission we're here to pursue together." 

On Dec. 7, the MIT Corporation released a statement affirming its support for President Kornbluth. Mark P. Gorenberg '76, Chair of the MIT corporation, wrote that "I and the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation entirely support President Kornbluth." 

The full statement is as follows: "The MIT Corporation chose Sally to be our president for her excellent academic leadership, her judgment, her integrity, her moral compass, and her ability to unite our community around MIT's core values. She has done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, all of which we reject utterly at MIT. She has our full and unreserved support."