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'This marks strike one': Pro-Palestinian student groups react to investments committee chair no-show

Pro-Palestinian student groups from across all three campuses announced the issuance of their first strike following the absence of Joint Committee on Investments Chair Gary Chropuvka at the groups' first scheduled divestment-related meeting. – Photo by Rutgers Endowment Justice Collective

Last month, pro-Palestinian encampments on Voorhees Mall were dismantled after University administration and student organizers exchanged an end to the demonstration, future disturbances and policy violations for measures that would increase support and representation of Palestinian students.

This arrangement included a commitment from University President Jonathan Holloway and Chair of the Joint Committee on Investments (JCOI) Gary Chropuvka to meet with a group of student organizers: a commitment purportedly left unmet after Chropuvka withdrew from a meeting with the group hours before its scheduled time earlier this week.

In a joint statement to the press, the Newark Solidarity Coalition, The Endowment Justice Collective (EJC) and the Newark and New Brunswick chapters for the Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers (SJP), shared their perspectives on their experiences scheduling this meeting, and the significance of not having it conducted in the manner established in May.

The statement read that organizers originally requested an in-person meeting with the University's Board of Trustees, Board of Governors and Holloway, but accepted a virtual meeting with University Chief Financial Officer Michael Gower, Holloway and Chropuvka as an alternative.

The groups' statement added that they faced hindrances throughout the scheduling process.

"Only through collective efforts and escalated actions across (the three campuses) since the onset of Israel's genocide have we finally secured this meeting," the statement read. "Framing … the agreement as merely placating students rather than engaging respectfully with us is disrespectful, belittling and ultimately counterproductive, eroding trust among the student body in further dealings with the administration."

In a collaborative post on Instagram documenting the incident and their response, the groups shared a screenshot of the email announcing Chropuvka's absence penned by University Chief of Staff Brian Ballentine.

In the email, Ballentine apologized for its surprise nature, acknowledged that the agreement stipulated Chropuvka's attendance, and asked the group to proceed with the meeting. The reason behind his nonappearance was not divulged in the email but was expected to be shared later.

The University responded to The Daily Targum's request for comment on the matter, affirming that the divestment request is currently being evaluated in accordance with its policy.

Compliance with the agreement made in May will determine whether SJP participates in future discussions with the University, which has dubbed Chropuvka's nonparticipation "Strike One" in its most recent statement.

"We have come this far because of these collective efforts and will continue advocating for full divestment by all available means until victory," the statement reads. "It is in this spirit that we unequivocally reject any breach of the May 2 agreement."

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