All Eyes Turn to MIT Following Downfall of Presidents of Harvard, Penn

Two of the three presidents from the disastrous congressional hearing on antisemitism are gone. Now, all eyes are on the third.

AP/Mark Schiefelbein
The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sally Kornbluth, during a hearing of the House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, December 5, 2023. AP/Mark Schiefelbein

Et tu, Sally? That’s what billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who led the charge calling on Harvard University’s president, Claudine Gay, to resign, is asking, as only MIT’s president retains her position following the disastrous congressional hearing on antisemitism on December 5. 

With two of the three top-tier university presidents at the hearing now gone, all eyes are on MIT’s Sally Kornbluth, whose testimony prompted as much uproar but less backlash than that of the other presidents.

Ms. Gay resigned Tuesday in the face of widespread criticism for her responses during Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s December questioning of the presidents, as well as nearly 50 allegations of plagiarism and a 17 percent drop in early applications to the university in 2023, as the Sun reported.

The University of Pennsylvania’s president, Liz Magill, resigned only days after the hearing. Mr. Ackman now appears to be turning his attention to Ms. Kornbluth, taking to X on Wednesday to say that MIT now “comes into focus” as the school loses faculty over antisemitism concerns.

Mr. Ackman reposted a resignation letter from a computer scientist, Mauricio Karchmer, who said that with “sadness” he was resigning from his academic position at MIT. “The past few months, since October 7th, have been deeply disappointing to me,” Mr. Karchmer wrote. “During a time when the Jewish and Israeli students, staff and faculty were particularly vulnerable, instead of offering the support they needed, the broader MIT community exhibited open hostility towards them.” 

After five “very rewarding” years of teaching, including an algorithm class taken by more than 60 percent of MIT’s undergraduates, he said MIT “has some work to do” if it wants to continue its educational mission. 

Ms. Kornbluth, who is Jewish, faced pushback from MIT Jewish alumni, who published an open letter to the president after she testified. “I have heard chants which can be antisemitic — depending on the context — when calling for the elimination of the Jewish people,” she said at the hearing. 

“Calls for genocide of any group of people, including Jews, constitute bullying and harassment. Such calls originating from MIT’s campus should never be tolerated by the MIT administration and should instead be met with swift disciplinary consequences,” the alumni wrote

During her “disastrous” congressional testimony, the letter noted, the president’s messaging sent a “strong signal to the rest of the world that violent words of hate are acceptable, at least as they relate to the Jewish people.” 

Ms. Kornbluth, in a message to the MIT community on Wednesday, wrote that the “Israel-Hamas war continues to cause deep pain.” She detailed steps the school will take in the New Year. The actions include “improving student disciplinary processes,” working towards a “shared understanding” of free expression, sending out targeted questions to students, and ensuring that “DEI programs meet campus needs.”

She wrote that the Institute will soon announce a new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, adding to the school’s lengthy DEI roster, as the school works to address “how best to combat antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hatred based on national origin or ethnicity.”

The New York Sun

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