May 9, 2024

Ensuring Our Students Are Safe

Linda Scherzer JCRC Director

As colleges end the academic year with eruptions of hate speech and violence, calls for the destruction of Israel, arrests of protesters who refuse to dismantle tent encampments and more, it was easy to have missed the big story at Rutgers last week. A tent encampment housing thousands of anti-Israel protestors dispersed peacefully after “successful” negotiations between protesters and the administration. 

Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway and Chancellor Francine Conway, no doubt, breathed sighs of relief. The prospect of violence and ugly confrontations with New Brunswick police had been averted. Final exams, which had been temporarily cancelled, were on again. The life of the university resumed. But not before student protesters, including pro-Hamas activists, claimed victory. 

It would not take long to learn that Rutgers had capitulated to demands from an angry mob, possibly the worst and most reprehensible response of any college administration in the country. Among the items they allegedly agreed to: 

  • Hire additional professors specializing in Palestine studies and Middle East studies, institute a center for Palestine studies, and establish a path to departmentalization for Middle East studies. 
  • Accept at least ten displaced Gazan students to study at Rutgers University on full scholarship. 
  • Provide full amnesty for all students, faculty, staff, and student groups who were penalized for disrupting the university these last seven months “to protest Israel’s human rights violations.” 

Rutgers’ alleged response was so disturbing, coming after months of protesters’ harassment of Jewish students, that the House Education and Workforce Committee, the congressional committee that brought the presidents of Harvard, MIT, UPenn, and Columbia to Washington to testify, immediately subpoenaed Holloway to appear before the committee on May 23, along with the presidents of Northwestern and UCLA.   

I am proud to say that our Federation also sprung to action, leading the charge to overturn Rutgers shameful decision by activating parents, alumni, and all vested stakeholders across the state of New Jersey, urging them to contact their legislators and separately, President Holloway. Our partners at the four other Federations have done the same. 

In the days that followed the call, Jewish stakeholders across the state sent more than 11,000 emails to President Holloway calling on him to either rescind his decisions or resign. More than 16,000 emails were sent to state legislators urging them to launch a state inquiry into the negotiations and what – exactly – the president had agreed to. 

Then, we turned to our elected representatives. 

State Assemblywoman Rosy Bagolie, a champion for our community who joined JCRC’s Legislators and Educators Mission to Israel in January, introduced the “Stop Antisemitism on College Campuses Act” which prohibits distribution of state aid to any institution of higher learning that authorizes, funds, or supports antisemitic events or organizations, or fails to punish acts of antisemitism on campus. 

Assemblyman Mike Inganamort, a good friend of our Jewish Federation and one of the other legislators who attended the mission, became a prime sponsor of NJ’s Antisemitism Resolution in the State Assembly, which, if passed, would adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. This bill, A3558, was introduced by a third member of our legislative mission, Gary Schaer. A companion bill would deny state funding to any state institution that doesn’t include this definition in its DEI practices. 

Whether lobbying our legislators, activating our constituents, or educating the community, JCRC and Jewish Federation will continue taking a lead role to make sure our students at Rutgers are safe, that college administrators are held accountable, and that we continue to demand from Rutgers administration a return to decency, accountability, and respectful civil discourse on campus.  

If you would like to make your voice heard, you can join us in Trenton on May 16, to ensure the two bills being discussed in a state senate hearing are passed and forwarded to the floor of our state senate or contact the Rutgers president and/or elected officials. Find out how