An Israeli PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gave an emotional rebuke on campus of the university president’s testimony before Congress last week, in which she said it would depend on “context” whether calls for an intifada or the genocide of Jews would violate the prestigious university’s code of conduct or rules against bullying or harassment.
Speaking through a microphone outside the New England Holocaust memorial in Boston, Liyam Chitayat, a doctoral student in computational and systems biology at MIT, cited how MIT President Sally Kornbluth testified that calls for the genocide of Jews would only violate the university’s code of conduct “if targeted at individuals, not making public statements.” This comes as MIT and Harvard are facing mounting pressure to remove their presidents after University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned Saturday.
Chitayat demanded the school answer for its “obsession with context.”
“Since the executive board responded to this pathetic congressional hearing of our President Sally Kornbluth by stating that they support Sally for her ‘excellent moral compass,’ I have to ask all of you about this continuous obsession with context,” the PhD student said. “I want someone to tell me, when is the right context to come and urinate on the window of the prayer room of MIT Hillel in front of the Jewish praying students inside there? Tell me, when is the right context to respond to reports of students facing blatant antisemitism by telling them, well, you can try talking to the police, you can go to therapy or you can go back to where you came from? I want to know when a dozen students are allowed to storm in and harass individual staff members that work or are Jewish and are Israeli.”
When pressed by Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., during a House Committee on Education and Labor hearing last week about the rise of antisemitism in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, the leaders of three of America’s most prestigious universities could not clearly state under repeated questioning that calls on campus for the genocide of Jews would violate conduct policies.
Stefanik and even former President Trump, speaking in New York this weekend, applauded Magill’s resignation, stating, “One down, two to go.” Seventy-four House members sent a bipartisan letter to the governing boards of Harvard, MIT and UPenn, calling on all three to take immediate action to remove the president of each respective institution.
At the hearing last week, Kornbluth admitted she had heard calls for an intifada on MIT’s campus, but she said those chants “can be antisemitic depending on the context when calling for the elimination of the Jewish people.” Those calls, the president testified, would be investigated as harassment “if pervasive and severe.”
“Somehow there’s a context in which you can tell Jewish students not to come to the entrance of MIT and to go to the back door to their classes,” Chitayat said, according to video shared on X by MIT professor Retsef Levi. “There is context where it makes sense that 70% of Jewish students at MIT do not show any sign of that they’re Jewish because they’re scared. There is a context where a chaplain advisor is allowed to stop an event four times to say that Israelis are European racists, white colonizers, right before asking who in this room eats kosher?”
Chitayat went on to recall how she spent “17 hours holding my breath” on October 7th as she texted a friend in Israel who was hiding in a bomb shelter in Kibbutz Be’eri, describing to her how Hamas terrorists had invaded her grandparents’ home.
“Every single moment she did not answer my texts I kept wondering whether that would be the last message from her. When I came to MIT the day after, all I wanted was a hug,” Chitayat said. “I just needed a hug because I have experienced the worst day in history we all have. But instead, MIT students and staff have celebrated this massacre – online and in a Victory is Ours rally.”
She also described how MIT students go around tearing down posters with pictures of Israeli children taken hostage by Hamas deeming them “Zionist propaganda.”
“When I look at my family, I see the face of Shiri, Ariel and Kfir Bibas, a mom and her two babies that are currently held hostage, sedated, physically and psychologically abused,” Chitayat told the crowd. “When I go in my home and I sit in my home and think about the 138 individuals that are missing from there, and when I look in the mirror, I see the face Naama Levy who is seen being dragged through the streets of Gaza with blood gushing through her thighs.”
Addressing Kornbluth and Harvard University President Claudine Gay by name, Chitayat asked, “When you look in the mirror, what do you see?”
“On top of your excellent, excellent moral compass, your choice to defend terrorist sympathizers will never be forgotten,” Chitayat said. “And quite frankly, your lack of humanity terrifies me. But it will not break our spirit. For thousands of years, us Jews had to defend our identity, our culture and our mere existence. And we will not stop now. The entire world should know that we would not let you erase us. Not in Israel and not here. We will not look away. And we will not take the back door. We are strong. We are united now and forever. Never again is now.”
The House committee launched a congressional probe into all three institutions to include “substantial document requests” and possible subpoenas for information not readily provided.