I am writing to address the “ongoing campus tensions” and the “challenging times facing the MIT community.” This piece is a love letter to the Scientists Against Genocide Encampment and an admonishment of the MIT administration’s brutalities against its own students. It is a plea for MIT to stick by its stated values and devote its resources to the welfare of humanity. More pressingly, it is a call for MIT’s students and workers to stand in solidarity with their peers — rather than MIT as an institution — when it is clear that MIT is building technologies that slaughter civilians.

These are also matters of urgency; discussions concerning student safety and well-being cannot be tabled to the next DEI meeting. Almost thirty undergraduate and graduate students have been interim suspended; they’ve been evicted from campus housing; they are barred from attending classes and exams, and their paychecks have been cut. That group of students includes one graduate student living with his wife and their five-year-old daughter and one Palestinian student who faced a serious deportation risk due to a suspension that was so baseless that it was thrown out [1, 2].

Students have worked towards good-faith negotiations with the administration for three weeks; administrators canceled negotiations meetings less than twenty minutes before they began and rejected an agreement clause stating that MIT should not accept research funding from nations for which there is plausible evidence that they are committing genocide (as determined by Human Rights Watch violations) without providing any counterargument for that rejection [7]. 

Israel invaded Rafah on Monday, May 6th [8], the same day that MIT attempted to shut down the SAGE encampment. On Tuesday, May 7th, the entire negotiations committee was suspended. The Scientists Against Genocide were left with little choice other than to escalate the pressures on MIT through peaceful acts of civil disobedience. We cannot idle as Palestinians are being ceaselessly slaughtered. We cannot devote ourselves more to order than to justice. 

Nine students were violently arrested during a peaceful picket at the Stata Center on Thursday; MIT and Cambridge police officers slammed these students onto the concrete and on top of cars, threw them, and tackled them into the street [3]. Multiple were left with bruises and other visible injuries. An additional ten students were arrested early Friday morning; these students awoke at four A.M. to over one hundred riot cops dismantling their encampment and flinging their belongings into recycling and garbage trucks [4]. Weeks' worth of artwork was dumped; our community-curated library with over seventy books was tossed into the recycling. Piles of food, tents, and sleeping bags were trashed -- a tremendous waste.

MIT claims that the arrests and the encampment sweep were done to keep the “campus community safe” [5]. I question which community members’ safety MIT seeks to ensure; the arrested, suspended, and evicted students are disproportionately from marginalized groups. MIT cannot attract a diverse student body by slamming its students of color onto the sidewalk or by evicting its low-income students from their on-campus housing.

This point is perhaps most exemplified in an MIT-wide email from Sally Kornbluth on May 3rd, addressing concerns related to a counterprotest happening later that day. The email claimed that the counterprotest was “in support of MIT's Israeli and Jewish students” and describes a previous pro-Palestine rally as “in support of the encampment” [11]. 

Besides the simple fact that many of MIT’s Jewish students — representing the student group MIT Jews for Ceasefire — were active participants in the encampment and scorned MIT’s claim that the May 3rd pro-Israeli rally was in support of them, referring to the encampment as an abstracted entity erases the students behind it. The MIT Coalition for Palestine is an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse coalition of students and workers; our members come from across the globe and carry a diverse range of religious beliefs and cultural identities. 

It is not just the needs of these students and workers that are being ignored by the Institute, though. The administration’s unwillingness to negotiate in good faith with these students demonstrates a blatant disregard for their intellect, their dedication, and their ideals; this is a great and shameful loss for the entire MIT community.

I could babble on about President Kornbluth’s emails and the administration’s actions of choice, though I’d like to take a moment to mourn the encampment itself. I sincerely miss it; in spite of the administration’s later efforts to shield the encampment from public view through the use of felt-covered barricades, it was a beautiful space. If nothing else, I'm incredibly grateful that this place was part of my MIT experience. The time I spent there empowered me to channel my anger into action and bestowed me with an unyielding courage to fight for the good of the world and its people.

I believe that efforts to archive and share witness to the encampment itself are incredibly relevant to MIT as an institution -- the SAGE encampment is perhaps the spitting image of the type of community that MIT professes to work towards in its own values statement.

“We strive to make our community a humane and welcoming place where people from a diverse range of backgrounds can grow and thrive — and where we feel we all belong.” This quote is excerpted from the MIT Values statement, “Belonging and Community” [9].

The SAGE encampment was the vibrant multicultural space on MIT’s campus that student and faculty advocates alike have dreamt of building for decades. We danced, we read, we recited poetry, we planted flowers, we broke bread, we prayed, and we did PSETs. We constructed a drainage system and held spontaneous drum circles. We organized Jumuah, Shabbat, and Seder celebrations, we squee-geed water from our tarps when it rained, and we birdwatched.

We are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, and otherwise. We are undergraduate and graduate students pursuing wildly disparate areas of study. We come from all parts of the world. Our lived experiences are entirely different from one another’s, and this is an asset to our movement. We are united in our respect for human dignity and our struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people.

“We know that attending to our own and each other’s wellbeing in mind, body, and spirit is essential. We believe that decency, kindness, respect, and compassion for each other as human beings are signs of strength” (from “Belonging and Community” [9]).

Countless community members generously donated trays of home-cooked and catered meals and snacks; as a student with no meal plan, the availability of fresh food at all hours of the day (and night!) significantly improved my personal well-being. Food deliveries were so consistent that even students not involved with the encampment remarked that SAGE had drastically improved campus food security [12]. SAGE campers took on marshall shifts to keep each other safe from harassment and medic shifts to attend to each other's physical and mental health needs; when a student suffered a panic attack after ceaseless harassment from counter-protestors, community members banded together and constructed makeshift curtains to afford the student some privacy. We look out for one another. Our care for each other makes us stronger.

“Valuing potential over pedigree, we know that talent and good ideas can come from anywhere — and we value one another’s contributions in every role” (from “Belonging and Community” [9]).

The encampment's physical structure facilitated organic interactions between students, faculty, staff, workers, alumni, and community members. MIT faculty delivered spontaneous history lessons, and multiple dining hall workers visited the encampment to voice their solidarity. It is disheartening that communications from the administration claimed that the encampment was “dangerous” because it drew in “outside protestors” [6] — rather, this aspect of the encampment made it a lively gathering place for the Cambridge community. The retired professors, bakery owners, and zen Buddhist monks who dropped by the encampment to donate meals and engage in friendly conversation certainly weren’t endangering students.

“Together we possess uncommon strengths, and we shoulder the responsibility to use them with wisdom and care for humanity and the natural world” (from “Belonging and Community” [9]).

The encampment served as a model for a society that we strive towards: a community whose members see each other’s well-being as critical to their own and one in which challenges are overcome cooperatively. More so, we stand for a ceasefire in Gaza and a severance of MIT’s direct research ties with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. We erected an encampment on April 21st because the situation in Gaza is truly dire; the slaughter of civilians is pressing onwards as we study for finals and pack dorm room items into cardboard boxes.

40,000 Palestinians have been massacred since October 7th. Men are confined in concentration camps, women are being beaten and sexually violated, children are starving and bleeding. 

On Monday, May 6, Israel pushed an invasion into Rafah [8], a city of over 1.4 million people, many of whom had fled there after their hometowns were destroyed.

Every university in Gaza has been bombed. There are only three partially functioning hospitals left in Rafah [10]. Forty thousand people are dead, and the death toll rises daily. You don’t need a degree in international relations to understand how horrific this is.

From Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics by bell hooks: “True resistance begins with people confronting pain…and wanting to do something to change it.” 

If we surrender our minds to hatred and despair, the world we strive towards — one of peace and dignity, one in which every child is treated as one of our own — will never be realized. We will not be deterred by counterprotestors; hence, I will not devote any space to discussing their actions in this piece. 

The encampment served not only as a reminder of the atrocities happening daily in Gaza but also as an alternative to a society ruled by the capitalistic and colonial forces we fight against; what better way to work towards an egalitarian, liberated, and democratic future than by modeling the principles of community care and humanitarian conscientiousness in our own daily living?

We are proud to take on the struggle against the cynicism promoted in our classes — the one that claims that the conflicts of the Middle East are too complicated to ever be resolved, the one that claims that the world is so complex that problematic socio-economic and political systems are too massive to study and too pervasive to change — and the disillusionment coursing through our political atmosphere. We carry an irrational optimism that we will leave the children of the world to come with a society free from terror and violence. We must believe that we will plant olive trees and tomato gardens where bombs once dropped; what other choice do we have?

Let me be abundantly clear: throwing out the tents on Kresge Lawn will not eradicate a movement of people united; their horror of Israel’s war crimes channeled into the resolve to fight for the people of Gaza. So long as IOF-funded projects like drone swarm research are carried out at MIT, we will continue to fight; the children of Palestine are our children, too, and we will look out for them in any way that we know how.

MIT, you have an opportunity here; severing the ties allows you to set an example for universities across the world for what it means to put your principles where your pocketbook is and to conduct technological research that enhances the lives of people across the globe, rather than destroying them. You have the opportunity to show your peers what it means to stand with your students and workers and what it looks like to collaborate with your student leaders, rather than silence them.

Students and workers, you must stand for something. Complicity is comfortable but not necessarily sustainable; whatever cruelties are output into the world eventually circle their way back around. Your beliefs are yours to contemplate; I do hope, though, that the notion that human life is sacred and worthy of defending is chief among them. Bearing witness to the brutal slaughter of the Palestinian people is challenging, but it is essential if we want this systemic violence to end. Rebuking the actions of your own educational institution is even more difficult, but there is courage to be found in numbers, and there is power to be found in this collective fight.

Our eyes are focused on Rafah, our index fingers are pointed towards MIT’s IOF research projects, and our hearts lie with the people of Palestine. 

The struggle shall continue forth as fiercely as ever — will you join us?

[1] Murphy S., Coulthoff A., and Khaw M. (2024, May 12). Suspended MIT and Harvard Students barred from graduation, evicted from campus housing. Boston Globehttps://www.bostonglobe.com/2024/05/12/metro/mit-encampment-protesters-suspended/

[2] (2024, May 10).  MIT Faculty Statement on Student Arrests and Suspensions. Alliance of Concerned Faculty. https://sites.mit.edu/allianceofconcernedfaculty/2024/05/10/faculty-statement-on-student-arrests-and-suspensions/

[3] (2024, May 9). MIT SAGE Press Release. MIT SAGE. https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vQln2ANuRD8QXx281lOVVx_zaW4CjJaJ1dpGmOevcBzFt62ohaNdzCg2Q0nLBLkl2JrkNreTr8id5rz/pub

[4] (2024, May 10). Press Release from SAGE Activists. MIT SAGE. https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSxjiDn4TPPaHEPhZjwP1-ZBZhUeZ7mNyHpI-PUag2GCJlLYe2a9naj3JTUUqbAbvJ38JhGsCtu-n32/pub

[5] Kornbluth, S. (2024, May 10). Actions this morning. MIT Office of the President. https://president.mit.edu/writing-speeches/actions-morning 

[6] Kornbluth, S. (2024, May 3). Important update. MIT Organization Chart. https://orgchart.mit.edu/letters/important-update

[7] Eadie, M. and Russel, J. (2024, May 6). Pro-Palestinian Protesters Resist Order to Clear Encampment at M.I.T. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/06/us/mit-protests-encampment.html

[8] Aljamal, Y. (2024, May 8). Israel’s invasion of Rafah will worsen suffering for Palestinians. AFSC. https://afsc.org/news/israels-invasion-rafah-will-worsen-suffering-palestinians

[9] Values Statement. MIT. https://www.mit.edu/values/

[10] (2024, January 24). WHO and partners bring fuel to Al-Shifa, as remaining hospitals in Gaza face growing threats. WHO. https://www.who.int/news/item/24-01-2024-who-and-partners-bring-fuel-to-al-shifa--as-remaining-hospitals-in-gaza-face-growing-threats

[11] Kornbluth, S. (2024, May 3). Important update. MIT Office of the President. https://president.mit.edu/writing-speeches/important-update 

[12 ]https://www.facebook.com/beaverconfessions/ (MIT confessions)