April 24, 2024
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April 24, 2024
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Rutgers Reinstates Students for Justice in Palestine

Anti-Israel protesters supporting Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers University.

Rutgers University has lifted the suspension of Students for Justice in Palestine but has placed it under one-year probation during which time the group cannot engage in the disruptive behavior that got it suspended last month.

“Rutgers typically issues an interim suspension of organizational activity when a student organization is facing multiple conduct complaints,” said university spokesperson Megan Schumann Florance in a statement. “Decisions were based on the fact that the students were protesting in nonpublic forums, causing disruption to classes and university functioning, which are violations of university policy. None of the actions taken were based on speech.”

She added the conduct case against SJP at the New Brunswick campus had been resolved, allowing organizational activity to resume, but the probation also includes educational sanctions, although Schumann Florance did not say what those sanctions included.

The suspension resulted from students being blocked from entering buildings and Jewish students being targeted with hateful speech by pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Rutgers became one of only a handful of universities to suspend SJP and only the second public university in the nation to take such action.

What specifically triggered the suspension was an unsanctioned protest by SJP at the business school on the university’s Livingston Campus in Piscataway that raised questions about the use of academic buildings and the disruption of activities as well as allegations of vandalism occurring at the school while an organization event was taking place.

Rutgers Hillel CEO Lisa Harris Glass had previously told The Jewish Link that pro-Palestinian demonstrators were allowed to hold a press conference near the business school in a designated area, but continued into an academic building. Students had told her they “perceived” they were unable to access the building as a result.

A supporter of SJP during a demonstration at Rutgers University.

There was also an incident where students studying in the Alexander Library held a “cease-fire now” sign.

Harris Glass has said as a result of the SJP actions she had been told by students they found the library to be “unusable.”

The federal Department of Education is investigating Rutgers for a Title VI violation of the Civil Rights Act for alleged failure to protect Jewish students from harassment.

In a statement SJP alleged the university failed to act on charges of harassment and doxxing of Palestinian and Muslim students and accused Rutgers of a “racist double-standard” by only suspending its activities. It also accused the university of suspending it without “due process.”

SJP claimed in its statement that the library incident occurred “as a result of Zionist peers’ discomfort” and that library administrators had pulled two SJP members into a private room and asked them to remove the sign.

It also claimed Palestinian students are regularly harassed and made uncomfortable on campus while “Zionists are never intimidated by faculty, administration, or staff.” It also complained of being “interrogated” in hours-long student-conduct hearings.

“From the beginning, Rutgers knew they could not legally uphold our suspension and after the rise of the ‘We Are All SJP’ campaign, which was a mass mobilizing effort of over 150 Rutgers student organizations on campus expressing their support for a reinstated SJP, they knew that the academic community would not let this unjust suspension happen either,” said the SJP statement. “Rutgers, a university that prides itself on diversity, could have supported Palestinian students suffering during this time. Instead, our university has chosen to suppress our voices, experiences, and demands.”

In its statement the university said: “Rutgers stands against Islamophobia, antisemitism, and against all forms of bias, intolerance, and hate. The university strives to be a safe and supportive environment for all our students, faculty, and staff while adhering to our commitment to free speech. We reject absolutely intolerance based on religion, national origin, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or political views.”

Debra Rubin has had a long career in journalism writing for secular weekly and daily newspapers and Jewish publications. She most recently served as Middlesex/Monmouth bureau chief for the New Jersey Jewish News. She also worked with the media at several nonprofits, including serving as assistant public relations director of HIAS and assistant director of media relations at Yeshiva University.

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