Boston Globe Article: Students say in federal lawsuit that MIT has tolerated antisemitism, discriminatory conduct on campus

Lawsuit filed against MIT accuses the university of allowing antisemitism on campus

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March 8, 2024

A new federal lawsuit claims that MIT has tolerated antisemitism and discrimination on campus, creating a climate of fear for Jewish and Israeli students since the Hamas-led attack in October and Israel’s subsequent invasion of Gaza.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in US District Court in Boston by StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice, a nonprofit focused on fighting antisemitism internationally, on behalf of three students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The suit demands that MIT expel students and fire professors and staff members who engage in or permit discriminatory conduct.

“MIT refused to enforce its anti-discrimination policies when an antizionist and antisemitic response emanated from MIT-recognized student groups, choosing instead to cloak those groups’ response in the guise of ‘free speech,’“ the lawsuit alleged. “MIT tolerated discriminatory, harassing speech that it had expressly not tolerated in other comparable situations.” 

According to the lawsuit, “Jewish and Israeli students have also avoided going to certain locations on campus during protests because of the hostile environment created by those protests.”

The 32-page lawsuit invokes Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and requests that the court issue an injunction instructing MIT to take the following steps to improve campus environment for Jewish and Israeli students:

— Fire “administrators, professors, or other university employees or staff responsible for the antisemitic abuse permeating the school, whether because they engaged in it or permitted it.”

— Expel students or shut down student groups at MIT who also “engage in such conduct.”

— Ensure that Jewish and Israeli students are “protected, with respect to their physical safety and otherwise, from discrimination and harassment on the basis of their Jewish identity, including those for whom Zionism is an integral part of that identity.”

— Explicitly alert the university community that “MIT will condemn, investigate, and punish any conduct that harasses members of the Jewish community, or others on the basis of their ethnic or ancestral background.”

An MIT spokesperson said the university has not received the lawsuit.

“We have not been served with the complaint and MIT does not, as a typical practice, comment on pending litigation,” Sarah McDonnell said by email. “Generally, we’d note MIT has established processes in place to address concerns of discrimination and harassment.”

Tensions have been heightened on many college campuses since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack that killed about 1,200 people in Israel and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza that has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, many of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

The turmoil led to the resignation of former Harvard University president Claudine Gay and sparked a federal lawsuit by 10 graduates alleging that Harvard’s failure “to end antisemitism on its campus” has led to “the devaluation of their Harvard degrees,” the Globe reported.

And a similar lawsuit was filed by students at Harvard in January, accusing the administration of failing to protect Jewish students from antisemitic harassment on campus during the Israel-Hamas war.

The 79-page civil complaint, also filed in US District Court in Boston, alleges that antisemitism at Harvard became especially “severe and pervasive” after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

“Harvard, America’s leading university, has become a bastion of rampant anti-Jewish hatred and harassment,” the complaint read.

Read the article HERE.