University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned Saturday amid the backlash over her handling of a question about calling for genocide on campus, and the chairman of UPenn’s board of trustees went with her. But MIT President Sally Kornbluth, who gave essentially the same answer during last week’s congressional hearing, isn’t going anywhere, according to MIT’s board.
And one alumnus who wasn’t thrilled is Gov. Chris Sununu.
Magill, Kornbluth, and Harvard President Claudine Gay set off a wave of outrage when they could not say that “calling for the genocide of Jews” violated campus rules regarding threats and bullying. All three institutions engage in aggressive policing of campus speech, with Harvard ranking dead last (#248) in the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) rankings for free speech on campus. UPenn ranked just above Harvard (#247), and MIT was at an unimpressive #146.
During a congressional hearing on the widespread antisemitism seen on college campuses in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel, Rep. Elise Stefanik asked the three university presidents, “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate [their university’s] code of conduct or rules regarding bullying and harassment? Yes or no?”
None of the three gave a yes-or-no answer. “If targeted at individuals, not making public statements,” MIT’s Kornbluth said.
That wasn’t good enough for a bipartisan group of more than 70 members of Congress, who released a letter calling for the dismissal of all three university presidents. New Hampshire’s Gov. Sununu, MIT Class of ’98, wasn’t happy, either.
“The inability of the presidents of MIT, Harvard, and Penn to unequivocally state that calling for the genocide of Jews violates their respective institutions’ codes of conduct is abhorrent, indecent, and dangerous,” Sununu told NHJournal in a statement. “As an alumnus of MIT, I am disgusted that the president was unable and unwilling to stand up for MIT’s Jewish students.
“Across this country, higher-education institutions have failed to meet the moment. This was not a hard question. Human decency demands that they rise to the occasion,” Sununu added.
So far, MIT is standing by Kornbluth, releasing a statement last week to that effect.
“The MIT Corporation chose Sally to be our president for her excellent academic leadership, her judgment, her integrity, her moral compass, and her ability to unite our community around MIT’s core values. She has done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, all of which we reject utterly at MIT. She has our full and unreserved support.”