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Video transcript: Actions related to a student organization

MIT President Sally Kornbluth

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Good afternoon, everyone.

Before the start of this semester, in a letter to the whole community and one directly to students, we were very clear about the rules of the road regarding campus demonstrations. 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.

Last night, members of the CAA – the Coalition Against Apartheid – once again conducted a demonstration on campus without going through the normal permission processes that apply to every student group at MIT.

Therefore, the CAA’s executive officers received a letter today from Vice Chancellor Suzy Nelson immediately suspending the CAA’s privileges as a recognized student organization. An official complaint has also been filed with the COD. 

This interim action means, among other things, that the group

  • is not allowed to reserve any space on campus for any purpose
  • is not allowed to use MIT facilities
  • will not receive standard funding of student groups
  • and will not be permitted to organize any further protests or demonstrations anywhere on our campus.

The suspension will remain in force until the Committee on Discipline makes a formal determination – our usual process in such cases. Individual cases referred to the COD will also come with interim restrictions.

I want to be clear that suspending the CAA is not related to the content of their speech. I fully support the right of everyone on our campus to express their views. 

However, we have clear, reasonable “time, place and manner” policies in place – for a good reason! The point of these policies is to make sure that members of the MIT community can work, learn and do their research on campus without disruption. We also need to keep the community safe – and we can’t do that without enough advance notice to organize staff and police resources. That’s why we have the rules.

We all know that universities have been the site of protest movements at many times in history.  But when students don’t respect the rules, we have to take steps to ensure the safety and smooth functioning of the campus community.

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Now, just a closing word – returning to something I’ve raised repeatedly regarding how we treat each other.

I’m sure by now that almost everyone in our community has heard me emphasize that there is a difference between what we can say – that is, what we have a right to say – and what we should say.

I understand that many of you feel that what you should say in this moment is in fact a passionate expression of your political views about the causes you believe in. 

However, I hope that all of us can find a way to express our political views with a basic sense of respect and empathy for other members of our community.

It is, for example, legitimate to criticize the policies of any government, including the current government of Israel – as indeed many Israelis do. But as members of one community, we shouldn’t feel it’s OK to vilify and shun Israeli and Jewish members of our community. 

Equally, we shouldn’t feel it’s OK to vilify everyone who advocates for the Palestinian people as “supporting Hamas.” 

And we definitely shouldn’t feel it’s OK 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. And of course, we do not tolerate threats to physical safety.


I have very high expectations for anyone privileged to be part of this community. 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.  We must find a way to live and work together.

Thank you.