Rutgers won’t stop controversial pro-Palestine campus event
✅ A pro-Palestinian campus event is being held at Rutgers
✅ The event would endanger Jewish students, according to Rep. Josh Gottheimer
✅ Rutgers has a history of standing by controversial speakers
NEW BRUNSWICK — Rutgers University will not cancel an event featuring three speakers U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer said are “antisemitic, anti-Israel, and hate-filled" whose appearance endangers Jewish students.
Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, objected to two of three speakers scheduled to speak at an event late Thursday afternoon on the New Brunswick campus titled “Race, Liberation, and Palestine: A Conversation with Noura Erakat, Nick Estes, and Marc Lamont Hill."
Lamont was fired by CNN in 2018 after an address in which he said he supports Palestinian freedom. Estes, an enrolled member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe has denounced the right of the State of Israel to exist.
Erakat, a human rights attorney and Rutgers Associate Professor was not mentioned in Gottheimer's letter to Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway asking him to stop the event. The letter said the event would "exacerbate the potential for violence and attacks toward Rutgers’ Jewish students."
A university spokesperson said the event will go on as scheduled in a statement to News 12 and TAP into New Brunswick. The school has a long standing policy of protecting academic freedom which allows “the expression of viewpoints that others within the university community may not share and, in fact, may vigorously oppose” by faculty members.
"Rutgers is a community of diverse ideas; we value academic freedom’s protections that allow our faculty and invited guest lecturers to state their views and engage in lively discourse,” the statement read.
A Rutgers spokeswoman told New Jersey 101.5 the school would respond directly to Gottheimer. His office has not received a response as of Wednesday morning.
Past controversies over Rutgers speakers
The school has stood by controversial speakers in the past.
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's invitation to speak at the 2014 commencement was met by protests from students and faculty who objected to her approval of extreme tactics against Iraqi detainees. She backed out of the invitation because of the "distraction" it created.
"While Rutgers University stands fully behind the invitation to Dr. Rice to be our commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree, we respect her decision not to participate in the upcoming Rutgers University commencement," then-university President Robert Barchi said in a statement.
The school also defended a student decision in 2011 to pay "Jersey Shore" star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi $32,000 to speak in 2011, which was $2,000 more than Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison received to speak at commencement. Steven Van Zandt was paid $35,000 to speak at a commencement.
The money spent led to a bill signed by Gov. Chris Christie that put a $10,000 cap on how much state money can be spent on campus speakers. However, Christie said it was largely symbolic because institutions largely use student activity fees to pay speakers.
Thursday's event is funded by the Mellon Foundation whose mission is to "build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive."
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