Current News



Testifying before Congress, Rutgers president defends decision to negotiate agreement with pro-Palestinian protesters

Susan Snyder and Zoe Greenberg, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

Three more college presidents found themselves in an uncomfortable national spotlight on Thursday at a congressional committee hearing probing the handling of antisemitism on campus.

Unlike the charged exchanges that happened in December, after which two Ivy League presidents resigned, seemingly no viral moment emerged from this latest hearing, though calls for the resignation of one of the three, Michael Schill, president of Northwestern University, had begun making the rounds by the afternoon.

For Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway, the hearing offered a platform to defend the school’s decision to negotiate an agreement with pro-Palestinian protesters who erected an encampment on campus while reassuring lawmakers and others concerned about antisemitism that they also had his attention.

Even as the hearing was still going on, the university issued a press release saying it had notified Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — the group involved in the encampment — that it had “initiated a conduct process” and that the group’s “alleged actions may have violated the terms of their current probation status.” That step appears to be responding to a request from a group of Jewish faculty, administrators and staff that called for the equal enforcement of campus policies against hatred, intimidation and harassment.

“We were acting in the state of emergency in the case of the encampment,” Holloway said during questioning. “With (concerns about antisemitism), I will absolutely say we could have responded more quickly, more robustly and we always will be trying to do better.”

The university declined to comment further on the conduct process for the pro-Palestinians protesters; during testimony, Holloway said cases were under investigation and that since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, four students had been suspended and 19 others disciplined in some other way.


Critics have said the hearings, which feature indignant questions from lawmakers who often don’t wait for witnesses to respond before moving to their next point, are largely political theater. During Thursday’s more than three-hour hearing in Washington D.C., Holloway, Schill, whose campus also negotiated an agreement with protesters, and Gene Block, chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles were peppered with rapidfire queries phrased like accusations. Both Schill and Block are Jewish and spoke of family members who survived the Holocaust. They were asked why they negotiated with the protesters, what they’ve done to combat antisemitism on campus and even shown videos, including one of a UCLA student being denied access to an area of campus by protesters, and asked to respond.

“Each of you should be ashamed of your decisions that allowed antisemitic encampments to endanger Jewish students,” U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R., N.C., chair of the committee, said in her opening statement. “Mr. Schill and Dr. Holloway, you should be doubly ashamed for capitulating to the antisemitic rulebreakers.”

Holloway maintained that his university made the right choice when it decided against calling in law enforcement to end the encampment. He pointed out that the activists were not terrorists as one lawmaker implied but were students enrolled in the public university.

”We made a choice: that choice was to engage our students through dialogue as a first option instead of police action,” Holloway said at the hearing convened by the GOP-led Committee on Education & the Workforce. “We had seen what transpired at other universities and sought a different way.”


swipe to next page

©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus