A Letter to a University President

The pro-Palestinian protests roiling campuses of higher learning nationwide have forced university leadership to reckon with a growing scourge of antisemitism directed against Jewish and Israeli students and faculty. This trend has not spared my alma mater, Rutgers University. Thus far the school’s leadership has failed to take adequate action that protects the safety and well-being of Jewish students on campus, as evidenced by the November re-instating of the Student Bar Association which previously was suspended for overt antisemitic intimidation of a Jewish member. My father, also a proud Rutgers alumni and associate professor at the university’s dental school, wrote a letter to President Jonathan Holloway to voice his disgust, disappointment, and sadness at what continues to occur on campus. His voice speaks for the many who continue to witness the horrific behavior taking place across America’s once-great college campuses.

Dear President Holloway:

I have been following very closely the actions that Rutgers University has taken since October 7th in regards to protecting Jewish students and those who belong to organizations on campus that have Jewish affiliations. I will not recite the atrocities that took place in sovereign Israel against innocent women, children and civilian men on that fateful day, as they have been memorialized on film and with eyewitness accounts from innocent citizens that miraculously survived the evil onslaught carried out by rulers of the quasi-government of Gaza, Hamas. Civilized people throughout the world understand that Hamas must be eliminated, not only from being forced on the people of Gaza but physically eliminated from ever again harming the law-abiding peoples of the region.

As a result of Israel defending its citizens from the evilest of Hamas’s actions, the bigots and racists that publicly and secretly espouse hatred of Jewish people, not only in Israel but throughout the world, have become even more brazen in their hatred for people who are Jewish, no matter their political persuasion.

Rutgers, the major educational institution of higher learning in New Jersey has done little or nothing up to now in protecting its Jewish students and Jewish organizations from not only this bigotry but also the physical intimidation that has been heard on campus and in social media. When your own students feel threatened and afraid to be on campus, your alarm bells throughout the University should be ringing as clear and loud as a bomb going off.

I am extremely angry and disappointed in the response from you and your Administration as it relates to this sickening environment of antisemitic bigotry. You are not a figure head as President of the University. You represent Rutgers as one of the greatest public educational institutions in New Jersey and throughout the United States. You are a powerful voice that has not been heard during this crisis. I am not sure why that is happening: are you afraid to be the strong leader you have been selected to be and be the beacon of light for the University? Do you not believe your students are afraid and intimidated? Or maybe you believe that the smokescreen of free speech protects those that shout slogans and quietly threaten their fellow classmates on the invisible social media channels that easily protect those who endorse the antisemitic sloganeering.

I have had a long history with Rutgers University. I am a once-proud graduate of Rutgers College receiving my degree in 1974. I donate my time as an Associate Clinical Professor in the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, teaching my undergraduate students restorative dentistry in Newark. I am extremely invested in this great University, and I give my money and my time to help its students achieve all that they can achieve.

You are presently lacking in the most important thing that can happen on your campus at this time. Be a leader and make it clear to everyone that bigotry, racism and physical and emotional threats have no place in your institution. Jewish students and organizations must feel protected and comforted by their surroundings. Presently it is the opposite situation.

I never want to stop supporting the institution that gave me my start in this world. The actions that you and the Rutgers University Administration have shown in this regard make me question future support for my alma mater.

Dr. Holloway, I welcome a continued discussion.


Mitchell Gardiner, DMD

A continued discussion is not so much to ask of those we entrust with the education our young adults and ensuring their safety while doing so.

About the Author
Ryan Gardiner, a Navy Veteran and 2016 Presidential Management Fellow, previously served as Managing Editor for Harvard Kennedy School's Journal for Middle-Eastern Politics and Policy in 2016, and an Assistant Managing Editor for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy in 2020. His previous works can be found in the National Interest and in Small Wars Journal.
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