🔵 A pro-Palestinian encampment at Rutgers New Brunswick ended Thursday

🔵 Organizers of say 8 of their 10 demands were met

🔵 Legislators say Rutgers should not have negotiated with 'a mob of students'


NEW BRUNSWICK — Not everyone is happy with how Rutgers University ended the pro-Palestinian encampment that took over Voorhees Mall for four days.

Republican and Democratic elected officials characterized Rutgers as having caved to protesters' demands, and one suggested withholding funding from the public university.

The group Students for Justice in Palestine set up the camp Monday after a march demanding the school divest its financial interests in Israel and end its partnership with Tel Aviv University. They were at the top of the list of 10 demands after the camp was set up.

Rutgers, along with Princeton University, were among campuses around the country where student protests materialized in opposition to Israel's war in Gaza, sparking debates about free speech and whether the demonstrations endangered Jewish students.

Unlike at UCLA and Columbia, demonstrations in New Jersey remained peaceful, although protesters were arrested in Princeton and Rutgers threatened police action on Thursday after demonstrators threatened to interrupt final exams.

Rutgers said it postponed 28 exams that impacted 1,000 students out of concern the encampment could escalate.

The 4 p.m. deadline to clear tents from the campus green was met after SJP and Rutgers had what Chancellor Francine Conway called "constructive dialogue" that "opens the door for ongoing dialogue and better addresses the needs of our Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian student body."

The school could not agree to the two biggest demands — divesting from Israel and ending ties to Tel Aviv University — because "such decisions fall outside of our administrative scope," according to a letter from Conway.

ALSO READ: Under threat of arrest, Palestine protest ends at Rutgers

Demands of the SPJ met by Rutgers
Demands of the SPJ met by Rutgers (Canva)

'Caving to the demands of the anti-semitic demonstrators'

Elected officials said the school should not be negotiating with lawbreakers.

“Any capitulation whatsoever to antisemitic, anti-Israel, pro-Hamas protesters is absolutely disgraceful,” U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District, who visited the encampment Thursday, said.

“Instead of rewarding unbridled hatred for Jews and the nation of Israel, Rutgers should be working to combat the violent and antisemitic threats that have been escalating against Jewish students on campus."

State Sen. Owen Henry, R-Middlesex, said Rutgers' "caving to the demands of the anti-semitic demonstrators" was unacceptable.

“I strongly condemn Rutgers for their failure to effectively address the academic disruptions that have occurred on their campus. It is imperative that Rutgers ensure the safety and well-being of all their students by holding students and staff who perpetuated messages of hatred on their campus accountable," Owen said in a written statement.

Democratic Assemblyman Avi Schnall, whose district includes the largely Orthodox Jewish municipality of Lakewood, condemned the agreement as favoring "a mob of students" who illegally commandeered the campus.

"By capitulating to the demands of these protesters, Rutgers University sets a dangerous precedent, signaling that our esteemed educational institutions can be overrun and held hostage by radical activists," Schnall told The Lakewood Scoop, adding that Rutgers should take "immediate and decisive steps to restore its campus to a place of inclusivity and safety.

ALSO READ: Menacing man arrested at 4 a.m. in Toms River neighborhood

Pro-Palestinian encampment at Rutgers University 4/29/24
Pro-Palestinian encampment at Rutgers University 4/29/24 (SJP)

Murphy: 'it's complicated'

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciatarelli and his primary rival, state Sen. Jon Bramnick, R-Union, took strong stands against the agreement.

"Rather than being negotiated with, students violating school policy should have been removed from campus and then expelled, and those breaking the law should have been arrested," Ciatarelli told New Jersey 101.5.

"When I’m governor, I can promise you that the Rutgers Administration won’t be acquiescing to any unreasonable demand made by those who violate University policy."

Gov. Phil Murphy, who did not comment about the agreement, earlier in the week called the situation "complicated."

Speaking at an event on Tuesday, Murphy said that he is OK with "peaceful protests," according to reporting by Insider NJ. But when campus life is upset that is a different matter.

Murphy was a strong supporter of Israel following the terrorist attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7. He has tempered his comments since to support a cease-fire in Gaza following retaliation by Israel.

A sit-in at Princeton University's Cannon Green continued for a 10th day on Saturday with the addition of a hunger strike. Participants, who are not permitted to use tents, will face potentially rainy conditions during the weekend.

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