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Holloway will testify to Congress on May 23: Professors, lawmakers weigh in

University President Jonathan Holloway is set to testify before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce in a recent line of questioning that has brought university administrators to the forefront of the debate around antisemitism and responses to student protests. – Photo by Rutgers Today / YouTube

Next Thursday, University President Jonathan Holloway will be testifying to the U.S. Congress about recent outcomes from negotiations with pro-Palestinian protesters.

He will be testifying in front of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, joining executives of other higher education institutions, including Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, two of whom have since resigned.

"President Holloway will attend the hearing and discuss with committee members how Rutgers has worked to combat antisemitism, advance our educational mission and handle protests on campus while prioritizing the safety of our students and community members," a University spokesperson said in a statement to The Daily Targum.

About the conclusion of the encampment at Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who heads the committee, said Rutgers administrators "surrendered to antisemitic radicals."

Less than a week after the encampment was disbanded, Rivka Schafer, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, filed a lawsuit alleging that Rutgers is a hostile environment for Jewish students, especially after the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks on Israel. The lawsuit states that the University violated state laws against discrimination.

The lawsuit also alleges that Schafer was the victim of a targeted act of antisemitism and bullying. In March, a poster with Schafer's face was posted on their residence hall door with surrounding text reading, "Free Palestine. Free Gaza. Vote yes to divest." The picture showed Schafer holding a sign at the bus stop at The Yard @ College Avenue that read, "Hot girls support Israel."

The lawsuit read that Schafer was "terrified" and notified the Rutgers University Police Department about the incident. Two students were later charged with harassment after the investigation concluded.

Other government officials also took a critical stance on the agreements between the University and protesters, including Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), who asked why Jewish students' requests were not addressed in a similar way.

Concerns were also brought forward by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1) in a letter addressed to Holloway on May 8, urging the University to investigate cases of antisemitism on campus and take action against antisemitism. It also called for the establishment of a Committee on Antisemitism and the Jewish Experience.

The letter also alleged that the encampment violated University Policy 50.3.5, citing the decision to postpone final exams before noon on the College Avenue campus on May 2, as previously reported by the Targum. These issues were outlined with specific questions, such as whether the University sat down with Jewish community members, with a response deadline of Thursday.

Others, like Todd Wolfson, the president of the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers and an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, instead commended the University. They praised the relatively peaceful process involved in closing the encampment while simultaneously acknowledging student efforts in enacting change and raising awareness.

Wolfson and more than 400 other Jewish professors at U.S. colleges and universities have since signed this letter responding to Norcross and Gottheimer, expressing their support for the University's response to the encampment.

Wolfson said the House-led hearing stems from greater efforts to limit academic freedom that predate Oct. 7, 2023. He added that, as a Jewish faculty member himself, he does not feel unsafe on campus, and antisemitism is being weaponized to discredit academia and democracy.

"President Holloway will face unprincipled smears against our whole University, and we support every effort he makes to counter the misinformation and intimidation," he said.

Rutgers Hillel declined the Targum's request for comment, and the Endowment Justice Collective and Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers—New Brunswick did not respond in time for publishing.

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