MIT suspends the Coalition Against Apartheid

Kornbluth: “We have to take steps to ensure the safety and smooth functioning of the campus community.”

In a video released to the MIT community on Feb. 13, President Sally Kornbluth announced the suspension of the Coalition Against Apartheid (CAA) for conducting a demonstration on campus “without going through the normal permission processes that apply to every student group at MIT.” This came after a CAA-organized protest on Feb. 12 outside of the Stratton Student Center.

Kornbluth stated that the CAA will be barred from using MIT facilities, receiving funding allotted for student groups, and organizing further protests on the MIT campus. CAA executive officers have also been contacted by Suzy Nelson, Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life, regarding the suspension. 

Institute rules on organized protest

On Nov. 8, 2023, Nelson sent an email to the MIT community listing permitted protest venues given “reasonable notice,” the day before a large-scale protest and ensuing counterprotest held in Lobby 7 and the Infinite Corridor that led to police and administrative intervention. These locations included the Stratton Student Center, the steps of the Stata Center’s Dertouzos Amphitheater, Kresge Oval, McDermott Court, and Hockfield Court. 

In an email to The Tech, Sarah McDonnell, Deputy Director of MIT Media Relations, wrote that the Institute has “long had time, place and manner expectations for student-led events.” She stated that, “Over the years, student organizations have usually been willing to meet in good faith with staff in advance, which has allowed us to communicate our expectations and guidelines in a collaborative way.” 

In her video, Kornbluth said, “These rules exist to ensure that we can make ample room for free expression — while also allowing everyone to pursue their work and lives here, safely and unimpeded.” Kornbluth acknowledged that “universities have been the site of protest movements at many times in history,” but added that “when students don’t respect the rules, we have to take steps to ensure the safety and smooth functioning of the campus community.”

Kornbluth on speech and respect 

Kornbluth stated the importance of expressing political views while maintaining respect and empathy for others in the community. “I fully support the right of everyone on our campus to express their views,” she said.

She further clarified her stance stating that community members must recognize when it is unacceptable “to single out other members of our community because of where they’re from or what they believe – and tell them that they’re ‘not welcome’ on our campus.” She added: “We do not tolerate threats to physical safety.”

In concluding her video, Kornbluth stated, “In a time of exceptional turmoil and polarization, I don’t see how we can do the important work of MIT if we can’t find a way to speak to what’s important to us without damaging the fabric of our community.”

Response of student-led organizations

“We feel that having these requirements of registering a protest three days in advance and clearing it with administration opens up a channel to suppress protest rights,” a CAA leader who met with The Tech said.

“I think a suspension [of the CAA] is a justified response,” a representative from the MIT Israel Alliance said. “I think the vast majority of clubs on campus — essentially all clubs on campus — seeking to promote their causes or facilitate a positive environment in line with MIT is a pretty unrestrictive policy.”

Since the video was shared publicly across the MIT community, many student groups in and out of campus have spoken up about the group's suspension. That same day a statement from the CAA was publicly circulated, calling on the administration to reinstate its recognition as a student organization and retract the cases made against specific students.

"We call on all people of conscience to stand alongside us and support our right to protest. We demand that MIT reinstate the Coalition Against Apartheid and retract the threats against student organizers," the letter writes.

The letter also serves as a signed petition, signable by organizations "of all types of groups." By the time of this article's publication, 176 groups had signed the letter — including student and local organizations across the Greater Boston area, and representatives from outside the city.

Individual sanctions

Alongside the public suspension of the CAA, individual students have also spoken out regarding individual cases allegedly made against them.

"MIT decided that due to my involvement in student activism, I was prohibited from holding leadership positions in any student organization and that doing so could result in my permanent suspension," a student shared through public channels.

While the students are not currently placed on suspension, the interim actions made by the administration with respect to both the CAA and the individual students have been noted in Kornbluth's Feb. 13 video to "remain in force until the Committee on Discipline makes a formal determination." The students shared that, while the exact circumstances vary, common actions included prohibitions from holding leadership positions in student organizations — allegedly under threat of suspension.

With regards to disciplinary cases for individuals, MIT's McDonnell declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of such processes.


These actions come after numerous clashes between the administration and student leaders on campus, including the Nov. 9 protest where administrators circulated a letter warning protesters of potential consequences to what was described as violations of Institute policy. Similar interim measures were also enacted in response to this incident, with emergency restrictions on involved students from "participating in non-academic campus activities" as cases were referred to the COD.

The suspensions reflect continued tensions on campus as the Israel-Palestine conflict drags on. 

This article was written as a joint effort by members of The Tech. All students mentioned in this article have been anonymized for the protection of their privacy.