MIT students refuse to leave encampments until demands are met

Pro-Palestine art at the encampment made by students showcasing solidarity with the movement. Photo Courtesy of Michael Rodriguez/BU News Service.

By Michael Rodriguez

Boston University News Service

Despite the 220 arrests last week at Emerson College and Northeastern University prompting the schools’ pro-Palestine encampments to be displaced, Massachusetts Institute of Technology students continue to protest. Students said they are refusing to back down until the institution agrees to their proposed negotiations. 

It’s been 12 days since the pro-Palestine encampments were established on MIT’s Kresge Lawn. The enclosed  “community space,” created by MIT students, has pro-Palestine art and tables of food. It can consistently hold up to at least 50 students at all times. 

While they work on assignments and offer support to each other, students are still protesting for what they have been demanding since day one: for the institution to cut all research ties with the Ministry of Defense of Israel. 

Since 2015, MIT has received $11 million in funding from the Ministry of Defense of Israel for professors and students to conduct research in laboratories on campus. With $4 million expended, the scientific research is being implemented by Israeli Occupation Forces for warefare crimes against the citizens of Plaestine, according to the MIT Scientist Against Genocide Encampment (SAGE).

The MIT pro-Palestine encampment was created by students at the institution on Sunday, April 21st. Tables of food, chargers, and other necessities are available for protestors at all times. Photo Courtesy of Michael Rodriguez/BU News Service.

MIT administrators are still in negotiations with MIT SAGE, and they have been unable to agree on a resolution to the encampments on campus. In a video for the MIT community, MIT President Sally Kornbluth stated, “Keeping the encampment safe and secure for this set of students is diverting hundreds of staff hours, around the clock, away from other essential duties. We have a responsibility to the entire MIT community – and it is not possible to safely sustain this level of effort. We are open to further discussion about the means of ending the encampment, but this particular form of expression needs to end soon.”

Graduate student Alex Rewegan, who studies history and anthropology at MIT and participated in MIT SAGE’s organization, said that despite the institution’s push back on their proposed negotiations, the group’s mission remains strong. 

“We’ve decided as a student body that we don’t want to contribute to research that’s involved in making weapons and in particular, contributing to a really uneven genocide in Israel and Palestine,” said Rewegan. 

There have been more than 2,000 people arrested on college campuses in the United States since April 18, when protestors at Columbia University sparked an uproar in activism across the country. Students everywhere have made their mission clear: they will not stop until there is a free Palestine.

Shara Bhuiyann, a senior at MIT studying electrical engineering and computer science, has been at the encampment since day one and explained  the morality behind the protests. “I feel that personally, and from a lot of the people that I’ve talked to, we’re here to stand our ground, no matter what,” said Bhuiyann. “If MIT decides to arrest us, or suspend us for fighting for a good cause, that’s a moral stay in normal conscience.”

There are a total of three students from the Gaza Strip who currently attend MIT, and Omar Dahle is one of them. A senior studying computer science, Dahle said he was surprised at the support of the movement and his homeland, not only on campus, but throughout the nation. 

“If you asked me a month ago, if this could happen, just an encampment, like a claim of space, I would have told you no way. If you asked me a week ago how long it was gonna last, I probably would have told you a few days,” said Dahle. “You’re asking me now, after seeing a week later, this has only gotten stronger and stronger, I think this is definitely going to last until the end of the year and maybe even after that.” 

Students at MIT bonding with one another in the “community place” they created on Kresge Lawn. Photo Courtesy of Michael Rodriguez/BU News Service.

Students at the encampment agreed, and accentuated that due to the recent severity of the protests, they are hopeful a ceasefire could be just upon the horizon. Alejandro Tañón, a junior at MIT studying computer science and engineering, said that the myriad of encampments across American college campuses continues to put pressure on government leaders to make a call. 

“All these encampments are basically working as this one collective force that’s pushing the United States to take action. It is the students saying ‘we’ve been seeing what you’ve been doing for the last six months [and] we’re not okay with this,’ ” said Tañón. 

Quinn Perian, a sophomore at MIT studying computer science and an organizer of Jews for Ceasefire, an organization a part of the MIT Coalition for Palestine, said it’s important to understand the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, stressing that the ties to the war are closer than they seem. 

“It really comes down to just the simple fact that there’s a genocide going on and ethnic cleansing that’s been going on for over 200 days now, but really, over 70 years,” said Perian. “It’s just important for everyone to realize that at MIT, these issues aren’t theoretical, but we’re part of an institution that’s directly working to do the research that creates these weapons that are being used.” 

On May 1, MIT students expanded their encampment to the campus’s Killian Court and are continuing to protest, according to a video from Boston PSL Instagram. 

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