Press Release: SCLJ and Jewish Students File Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against MIT For Violating Jewish Civil Rights, Condoning Antisemitism

Title VI suit asks court to halt and remedy MIT’s antisemitic policies and practices

(Boston — March 7, 2024) StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice (SCLJ) and two MIT students today filed a federal lawsuit against MIT alleging the university’s approval, support, and enablement of antisemitism in violation of the students’ rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. SCLJ and the Jewish students are asking the court to halt MIT’s discriminatory policies against Jews and order MIT to pay monetary damages for violating the students’ civil rights.

The complaint, filed in Massachusetts District Court by law firms Nigh Goldenberg Raso & Vaughn, Pearson Warshaw, LLP, Sultzer & Lipari, PLLC and Varnell & Warwick, P.A. alleges that MIT approves of antisemitic activities on its campus, tolerates discrimination and harassment of Jewish students and faculty, and has created a hostile environment for Jews. Specifically, it alleges MIT:

  • Tolerates harassment of Jewish students and professors;
  • Allows MIT students to call for violence against Jews without facing disciplinary action;
  • Tolerates discriminatory and harassing activities directed against Jews while not tolerating such against other groups protected by Title VI;
  • Makes Jewish students feel unsafe attending classes, with some even deferring graduation dates or exams, and others avoiding certain locations on campus; and
  • Allowed university-approved student groups to violate MIT policies to carry out antisemitic activities, including disruption and defacement of university facilities.

The lawsuit alleges Jewish professors reported incidents where MIT students disrupted the academic environment and intimidated faculty by yelling outside their offices while rattling the doors. One professor described incidents where Jewish and Israeli MIT students were physically prevented from attending a class by a hostile group of pro-Hamas and anti-Israel MIT students. Jewish students attested that rather than dispersing antisemitic mobs on campus, MIT warned Jewish students to steer clear of certain areas – effectively sending Jewish and Israeli students underground at their own university – with no repercussions for the students violating school policies and creating an unsafe environment for Jewish students. The list of antisemitic incidents continues.

Student plaintiffs are available for interview upon request. A copy of the federal complaint is posted on the SCLJ website. SCLJ and the students are being represented in court by Marlene Goldenberg of Nigh Goldenberg Raso & Vaughn, PLLC, Melissa Weiner of Pearson Warshaw, LLP, Janet Varnell of Varnell & Warwick, P.A., Jason P. Sultzer of Sultzer & Lipari, PLLC, and David Abrams of the Zionist Advocacy Center.

“Plaintiffs allege that MIT’s administration has evaded accountability and continues to support antisemitism on its campus, with little to no repercussions for students violating campus policies,” said Yael Lerman, director of SCLJ. “Today we are joining with two courageous Jewish students who will not stay silent while MIT discriminates against them in violation of federal law. And we are grateful to the team of lawyers that is helping us pursue justice for Jewish students at MIT.”

“Jewish students are asking for nothing more than what the law affords them and what MIT promises to each student: a safe and discrimination-free education,” Goldenberg said. “Jewish students, like all students, should not have to feel unsafe at MIT.” 

“This case seeks to remedy MIT’s selective application of its policies and failure to protect Jewish students at MIT, and we commend our clients for being brave enough to stand up for themselves and their peers,” Weiner said. 

About the StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice  

StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice (SCLJ) is a tax-exempt membership organization that partners with StandWithUs, a nonprofit education organization dedicated to supporting Israel and combating antisemitism. Comprised of students, professors, and community members, SCLJ enhances StandWithUs’ mission through impact litigation and other legal actions. Learn more at www.swulegaljustice.org.

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