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Monday, July 21, 2003

Free Speech for Jew-Haters

Rutgers "emphasizing safety, civility and respect"
July 21, 2003

Dear Anne Lieberman,

Thank you for your correspondence concerning the status of a conference entitled the “Third National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement, tentatively scheduled to be held at Rutgers facility in October 2003.

In response, I am pleased to refer you to a statement below by President Richard L. McCormick to the Rutgers community that addresses the substance of your communication.

As is the case with the hundreds of other programs, conferences, and events held at Rutgers facilities each year, we will continue the review process for this event in accordance with the various policies and procedures with which any program must comply before approval of a reservation for use of the facility.

I sincerely appreciate your interest in this matter. I will continue to work closely with those involved and affected by the Conference emphasizing safety, civility and respect. A number of teach-in’s are also planned by our faculty during the time of the conference. Our campus ministries will also be involved.

Yours truly,

Emmet A. Dennis

Emmet A. Dennis, Ph.D.
Professor and Vice President for Student Affairs



NJ Solidarity-Rutgers Chapter, a registered student organization with an estimated 25 members, has applied to use the Douglass Campus Center in October to hold a three-day conference entitled, “Third National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement.” NJ Solidarity-Rutgers Chapter is one of hundreds of registered student groups on campus that represent a wide range of social, political, cultural and other perspectives. This organization’s views are its own and are distinctly not the views of Rutgers University.

For myself, I find abhorrent some elements of NJ Solidarity’s mission. In its mission statement, NJ Solidarity expresses its opposition to Israel’s right to exist and supports “Palestinians’ human right to resist occupation and oppression by any means necessary.” These views are in conflict with my own and, I believe, with the majority of the university community.

However, intrinsic to Rutgers’ own mission is the free exchange of ideas and discourse on a variety of issues, including those that are controversial. This university must remain a model of debate, dialogue and education. I believe this is an appropriate and powerful role for our institution, and we encourage our students to express their beliefs and analyze the difficult issues of the day. We specifically encourage students and others who do not agree with NJ Solidarity to express their own opinions in a public and constructive manner.

We expect all of our students to exercise their constitutional rights in a civil and respectful manner. Freedom of expression must not be used to incite hatreds or demonize individuals and groups. Above all else, it must not be used to damage the fabric of our institution's open community.

Our students come from a rich diversity of backgrounds and bring to Rutgers many perspectives and viewpoints. They are free to organize into groups so long as they abide by state and federal laws and adhere to the university’s nondiscrimination policy. Registered groups receive their support from fees paid by students. Such groups do not receive any funding from state appropriations or tuition. Registered student groups also enjoy access to university facilities. We do not place restrictions on their views, nor do we endorse them.

NJ Solidarity-Rutgers Chapter is registered with Rutgers College. That college’s student governing association distributes some $500,000 in student fees to registered student groups each academic year; NJ Solidarity-Rutgers Chapter is slated to receive a little over $1,400 from student fees in fall 2003.

In the months ahead, Dr. Emmet Dennis, Rutgers’ Vice President for Student Affairs, will work closely with the conference organizers to coordinate university efforts to protect the safety of those who participate in the conference and those who may protest it. Accordingly, Dr. Dennis will bring various university units, including public safety, into the planning discussions so that we can be confident that this conference and the debate surrounding it will reflect our educational mandate and our university’s goals and values.