Rutgers students – reluctantly – end Gaza solidarity camp • New Jersey Monitor

Rutgers University students peacefully dismantled their pro-Palestine camp on the New Brunswick campus Thursday evening after university officials agreed to some of their demands.

Dozens of tents first set up Monday were taken down Thursday shortly after 4 p.m. — the deadline Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway set earlier in the day for students to end their encampment on the lawn of Voorhees Mall near Scott Hall, otherwise they could possibly be arrested.

Francine Conway, chancellor of Rutgers New Brunswick, said the resolution was “developed through constructive dialogue” between protesting students and administrators. The agreement “opens the door for continued dialogue and better meets the needs” of the 7,000 Arab, Muslim and Palestinian students who attend Rutgers.

Protesters issued a list of 10 demands for the university, with the two top priorities being getting Rutgers to divest its financial interests from companies linked to Israel or profiting from the war, and severing its partnership with Tel Aviv University.

Organizers said administrators have met all of their demands except those two, which Conway said are “beyond our administrative scope.” The divestment request is currently under review, she added.

The university also did not explicitly call for a ceasefire, as students demanded.

Conway, in a three-page response to the protesters, agreed that the university would meet some of their demands, including welcoming 10 displaced Palestinian students to complete their education at Rutgers, and developing a plan against the fall to establish an Arab Cultural Center with a designated physical center. space and personnel, and reviewing Rutgers’ relationship with Birzeit University, a public university in the West Bank.

University officials will also convene a working group to identify gaps in the faculty and conduct a study on establishing a Middle Eastern Studies department.

“Our commitment to our students comes first. I am grateful for the role of our faculty in guiding and supporting the students toward this peaceful resolution. At Rutgers-New Brunswick, we are committed to fostering a community that prioritizes a safe and peaceful resolution through open dialogue,” she said in a message to the university.

A mixed reaction

Cheers erupted on the tent-strewn campus lawn after students heard many of their demands had been met, and some soon began tearing down tents and tables and collecting protest signs. However, several dozen students continued to angrily shout slogans such as “There is only one solution! Intifada Revolution!” and refused to leave for an hour.

Campus police sent out an alert just before 6 p.m., ordering everyone to clear the area of ​​Voorhees Mall due to police activity. The encampment was completely cleared by 7 p.m.

Students declined to speak to the New Jersey Monitor, citing concerns about university discipline and attacks or doxxing by Israeli supporters.

Dozens of teachers joined the encampment and helped form a human chain between the pro-Palestinian students and a smaller group of Israeli supporters waving Israeli and American flags. The police stood guard around the green.

Todd Wolfson is professor of media studies and president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, which represents 5,000 full-time faculty, graduate employees, consultants and librarians.

He said the university’s unions support the students’ calls for a ceasefire, although not necessarily all their demands. Still, he said, teachers were willing to “put our bodies on the line” and be arrested to protect students’ right to protest.

“We believe our students should have the right to speak, and across the country we have seen terrible repression of students,” Wolfson said. “We will stand with the students to force the administration to adhere to the commitments they made to the students.”

He returned to reports that there was anti-Semitic behavior and outside unrest in the encampment. Holloway said earlier Thursday that some protesters are individuals “not from our community.”

“Anti-Semitism is weaponized – weaponized! – to prevent people from fighting to stop an unjust war,” Wolfson said, adding that he is Jewish.

Ronald Chavez Hassan, who works at Rutgers’ behavioral clinic, visited the camp during the four days.

“I like that you have such a diverse group of people, regardless of religion or race, ethnicity, coming together to stand up for what is right, for freedom and human rights and the protection of the innocent. Doing this is a microcosm of what we should be doing around the world, whether it’s Ukraine, or Rohingya, or the Uighurs in Xinjiang province. We have to take a stand,” Hassan said. “Rutgers is the flagship university of New Jersey, and we need to represent and try to encourage people to look at the truth.”

In his message to the university earlier Thursday, Holloway said the early morning protests at the encampment forced Rutgers to make the “unprecedented decision to postpone morning exams on the College Avenue Campus.”

“We value freedom of expression and the right to protest, but this should not be at the expense of the education and safety of our students. We strive to balance these rights and maintain a safe environment in which our students can learn and succeed,” he said in the email.

The postponement affected 28 final exams scheduled for Thursday morning and affected 1,000 students, Rutgers officials said.

The governor’s office declined to comment.

The Rutgers encampment was at least the second in New Jersey, after Princeton University students set up a camp there last week. Students across the country have set up such solidarity camps and taken over campus buildings to push universities to divest companies linked to Israel. Some have become tense, with more than 2,000 protesters arrested across the country.