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Tambussi indictment fuels criticism, calls for resignation by U. community members

Audience members held up posters calling for University Governor William Tambussi's resignation and Israeli divestiture at the Board of Governors meeting on Thursday. – Photo by New Brunswick Today / YouTube

Calls for the resignation of an indicted University Governor and Israeli divestment outshined the Rutgers Board of Governors and Board of Trustees meetings in Winants Hall on the College Avenue campus on Thursday.

The Board, which decorated itself with resolutions recognizing its members and elected Amy Towers as its new chair following the conclusion of William Best's tenure, was released days after a 111-page document filed on June 13 detailing William Tambussi's indictment shook Camden and Southern New Jersey politics.

Tambussi, a member of the Board of Governors and the Camden Campus Board of Directors, as well as former Camden Mayor and former Chief Executive Officer of the Rowan University/Rutgers—Camden Board of Governors Dana Redd, were included in an indictment against George Norcross, the chair of Camden-based Cooper University Health Care's Board of Trustees.

Norcross and five others, including Tambussi, are referred to in the document as the "Norcross Enterprise," which allegedly "would extort others through threats and fear of economic and reputational harm and commit other criminal offenses to achieve the enterprise's goals." Tambussi is Norcross's personal attorney, according to the indicting document.

An Instagram graphic jointly published by the Rutgers chapter of the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) and the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union consequently called for Tambussi's resignation or removal from the Board.

"How can the Board of Governors claim to be legitimate in overseeing the University's mission — including serving the people of Camden and New Jersey — when the person who's supposed to represent Camden on the Board stands accused of enriching himself at the expense of the city and its campus?" Todd Wolfson, the president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT and an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, said in an interview with Insider NJ.

Tambussi faced criticism in January for selling his Haddon Heights home in 2022, an alleged violation of the terms of his position within the University's governing boards that require him to reside in Camden County. He now lives in Brigantine in Atlantic County. At the time of writing, his residence remains Haddon Heights on his Camden Board of Directors profile, while Brigantine is displayed on his Board of Governors profile.

The Daily Targum reached out to Rutgers—Camden for clarification on this distinction but did not receive a response in time for publishing.

The Board of Governors meeting also saw condemnations and demonstrations from the audience, both during and outside of the public comments section.

In the meeting's public comments section, community members echoed Wolfson's statement, including Kelly Dittmar, the vice president of the Rutgers—Camden chapter of the AAUP-AFT, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers—Camden and a Rutgers alum, and Pennsauken local Antoinette Miles, the state director of the New Jersey Working Families Party.

After each speaker's presentation, members of the audience chanted, "Resign!" and "Tambussi must go!" The latter was plastered on the paper signs they held.

After the Board's presentation on financial stability, Best praised the work of University Governors on the committee, including Tambussi. Upon the utterance of his name, one audience member began to speak, holding up a sign that read "Mobster Tambossi off R BOG." Others joined in saying "Resign" and calling Tambussi a "mobster."

"Listen to what you're saying — you sound ridiculous," the audience member said. "(Tambussi is) a mobster. Racketeering. Illegal."

In a video by New Brunswick Today, Tambussi declined to comment on the indictment, but when asked whether he would resign from the Board, he replied that "(his) term expires in ten days."

The Governors and Trustees meetings also saw criticism of the University's handling of its investments and pro-Palestinian encampments.

In the Board of Governors meeting, members of the audience performed a walkout demonstration, chanting, "Stop the killings, stop the hate — Rutgers funds an apartheid state," "Say it loud, say it clear — we don't want birthright here" and "Hey-hey, ho-ho, the occupation has got to go" while Tambussi introduced the University's financial strategy.

A joint statement by the Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers—New Brunswick, Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers—Newark and the Newark Solidarity Coalition claimed that the groups walked out because the Board removed an individual who was registered to speak "with no explanation" but did not elaborate.

A University spokesperson told the Targum that some members of the public signed up to speak but provided insufficient information without following up with the necessary details. As such, they were not confirmed to begin with.

"No speakers were removed from the list," the spokesperson said.

In the public section of the Board of Trustees meeting, Luke Spaltro, a Rutgers alum, identified members of the Joint Committee on Investments via an Open Public Records Act request. Members included University Governors Mary DiMartino, Tilak Lal, Harvey Schwartz, Towers and Best.

University Trustees members on the investments committee included Gary Chropuvka, C. Edward Chaplin, Robert Falzon, Mary Papamarkou and Chair Alan Crosta.

Spaltro criticized the University's inaction regarding divestment from "Israeli apartheid," its collaboration with Tel Aviv University and its response to the pro-Palestinian encampments at the New Brunswick and Newark campuses.

Assets under the University's management have grown to approximately $2.06 billion — a record high, according to Chropuvka. He yielded to questions from the Board but received none, with the meeting concluding shortly thereafter.

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