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Board of Governors shifts meeting agenda amid pro-Palestinian speeches

The Rutgers Board of Governors heard from pro-Palestinian speakers and moved most of the following agenda items to the consent agenda at the Board meeting at the Campus Center at Rutgers—Camden on Thursday. – Photo by Courtesy of the Rutgers Board of Governors

On Thursday, a Rutgers Board of Governors meeting that convened in the Campus Center at Rutgers—Camden adjusted its agenda after pro-Palestinian University students spoke.

According to the meeting's agenda, the meeting was intended to feature remarks from Board of Governors Chair William Best, University President Jonathan Holloway and Rutgers—Camden Chancellor Antonio Tillis. The meeting also intended to discuss committee and University Senate reports, consent agenda items and old and new business, in that order, prior to adjournment.

The meeting started at approximately 12:05 p.m. with a closed session that went on until approximately 1:20 p.m. following a 15-minute extension.

After Best, Holloway and Tillis's reports, Best called upon Kimberlee Pastva, the Board's secretary, to announce those who signed up to speak at the meeting.

Lu Rose Biltucci, a graduate student in the Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, spoke against an agenda item that focused on infrastructure. They cited Tillis's proposal for the Cooper Street Gateway Project, which read that the goal of the undertaking was to promote community at Rutgers—Camden, and Biltucci asked whether community was feasible in the context of the University's status quo.

"We don't need another shiny building. We need investments in our students. We do not need investments in the State of Israel. We need to divest," they said. "I'm sure that the divestment vote was discussed in your closed sessions. And we took note that, that was not part of the open session agenda."

One speaker pointed out that they were unable to vote in the divestment referendums due to their status as a graduate student. They also discussed ongoing issues across the three Rutgers campuses, including the faculty pay gap between the Newark, New Brunswick and Camden campuses, the suspension of student organizations, as well as the underpayment of staff, according to the speaker.

Another speaker discussed Holloway's email about the referendums, in which he spoke against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and indicated that the University will continue to collaborate on the New Jersey Innovation and Technology Hub alongside Tel Aviv University, as previously reported by The Daily Targum.

"(Holloway) sent an email promoting 'engagement, not isolation' as Camden's campus voted on divestiture," they said. "This act was just one of many that displayed this administration's neglect of Camden."

They also referenced the break-in and vandalism of the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University, which is under investigation as a hate crime, and said that Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Francine Conway's email was the first University communication that made a reference to Palestine.

A different speaker said University administrators failed to prevent the incident by taking neutral stances regarding Israel. The speaker added that Holloway, the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees should not be in their positions at the University.

After all the signed-up speakers presented, Jose Piazza, a University governor, presented his report. Upon the conclusion of his remarks, a "Divest now" chant was heard from a distance. According to an Instagram story by the Endowment Justice Collective, members of the organization were prevented from entering the space.

With the permission of Best, Mark Angelson, the Board's vice chair, then moved the remaining content from the original meeting agenda to the consent agenda. According to BoardSource, anything under a consent agenda does not necessitate discussion or voting due to the assumption that the Board consents to all matters within the agenda.

In addition, Best said he would not ask for old or new business, despite the practice being established in previous Board meetings and agendas, and adjourned the meeting.

When asked about the meeting's conclusion, a University spokesperson said the Board "met, heard remarks from President Holloway, approved all necessary resolutions, heard comments from several members of the public and concluded its business before adjourning (Thursday) afternoon."

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