Ahead of House hearing, Jewish Rutgers students, faculty condemn handling of campus antisemitism

More than 150 students and more than 200 faculty and staff signed open letters criticizing the environment on campus and school leaders’ failure to enforce the rules

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Old Queens building, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Ahead of testimony on Capitol Hill on Thursday by Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway, hundreds of Jewish Rutgers students, faculty, administrators and staff signed onto a pair of letters condemning the school’s handling of antisemitism on campus.

Rutgers’ administration agreed to many of the demands put forward by anti-Israel protesters on campus, but refused to divest from companies linked to Israel or cut ties with Tel Aviv University. Lawmakers, including Gov. Phil Murphy, have condemned the university’s handling of the situation.

The more than 150 students who signed the student-led letter wrote that they “would like to share our experiences of the past academic year in the hope of conveying the hurt, pain, and isolation that many of us have suffered and suggesting ways that the entire university community might do better in the future, not just to support its Jewish students, but to create a more tolerant climate for all its members.”

The students said that anti-Israel demonstrators had “in short… taken over our university,” including by forcing the delay of final exams, taking over building and blocking events.

They said they felt “abandoned” by people they considered friends in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, some of whom defended the Hamas massacre and “quickly mobilized in support of terror, conveying to us that we would not be safe and welcome at the university many of us called home.”

The students further accused “many faculty and staff” of having “guided [protesters] in tactics of intimidation and menacing protest,” helped the students negotiate with administrators and in some cases “allowed for and perpetuated antisemitic behavior in their own classrooms.”

They said that they have “no objection” to pro-Palestinian protests, but said that student groups that have actively violated others’ rights to free expression have faced no punishment, and that the university has failed to enforce its own rules.

“​​Our desire is nothing more than for our university to once again become a place where all peoples are welcome and treated equally, in a tolerant environment where we can all pursue knowledge in a spirit of peace and empathy for others,” the letter continued.

The second letter, signed by more than 200 faculty, staff and administrators, highlights more than a dozen incidents, including celebration of the Oct. 7 attack and the use of university resources to promote anti-Israel propaganda, some of which have gone unpunished.

“The administration’s decision to accede to the demands of the encampment protesters undermines the principles of shared governance, and it elevates the voices of a radical few above those of the more reasonable whole,” they wrote. “It does a disservice not just to Jewish students, faculty, and staff, but to the entire university community.”

They said Rutgers had failed to act proactively to respond to and make clear its rules and policies with regard to demonstrations and, “As a result, the entire university community has suffered through the disruption of normal university operations and an often chaotic and intimidating environment on our campuses.”

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