✅ Despite strong objections, a pro-Palestinian panel discussion went on at Rutgers

✅ Rep. Josh Gottheimer said the discussion endangered Jewish students

✅ The moderator called the objection to the discussion 'hateful'

Rutgers President Jonathon Holloway told the Board of Trustees on Thursday that his office received more than 12,000 emails calling for the cancellation of a pro-Palestinian event on campus, describing it as akin to being "electronically harassed."

The emails were received over 10 days in response to the program called “Race, Liberation, and Palestine: A Conversation with Noura Erakat, Nick Estes, and Marc Lamont Hill" sponsored by the Mellon Foundation.

One of those emails was from U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., 5th District, who called Estes and Hill “antisemitic, anti-Israel, and hate-filled" whose appearance endangered Jewish students.

Holloway told the trustees that the onslaught of emails made it difficult to run three campuses because staff needs to go through all the emails and filter out the messages sent by an actual person. But he said each message will get a response.

"Because of the absolute commitment to academic freedom, we will go to really hard places to preserve academic freedom. This is one of these things and there are instances where people say, 'I support free speech but.' You cannot have a conjunction and a qualifier if you support free speech. We support free speech and it's hard," Holloway said.

(L-R) Sylvia Chan-Malik, Nick Estes, Marc Lamont Hill and Noura Erakat
Sylvia Chan-Malik, Nick Estes, Marc Lamont Hill and Noura Erakat (Sawyer Seminar: "The Afterlives of Liberation" via YouTube)

'Hateful' objections

Sylvia Chan-Malik, an associate professor with the Rutgers Department of American Studies who moderated the discussion, called the objections to the panel discussion “hateful."

"I want to share that there have been vicious smears and remarks directed at our speakers full of statements that have been patently and verifiably false. I want to share that here in our privilege and safety as American academics and our privilege and relative safety here at an American university defending academic freedom and bringing critical voices to our students and community are the bare minimum that we can do," Chan-Malik said at the start of the discussion.

Francine Conway, chancellor and a professor at New Brunswick, said in a statement that she and her team are committed to keeping the campus "safe, inclusive, and open to a free exchange of ideas and viewpoints, including ones with which we may strongly disagree."

A chancellor advisory group will be created to address the rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia on the New Brunswick campus.

"We will also work to ensure that our policies and procedures, especially as they pertain to incidents of bias, harassment, and discrimination, are clear, easily accessible, and consistently applied," Conway wrote.

A new process will also be implemented for scheduling events that will allow for appropriate safety measures to be put in place.

The Daily Targum was first to report on the trustees meeting.

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