Rutgers Student Paper Pulls Controversial Column About Jewish Student Center

After a fairly vitriolic digital brow-beating from readers, The Daily Targum at Rutgers University has deleted a recent column that questioned the funding being directed toward a new center for a leading Jewish student organization.

According to Targum editors, the guest piece contained a number of factual inaccuracies and also “garnered a wave of backlash from not only our Jewish readers, but from many throughout the entire Rutgers community. We, as a publication, received perhaps just as much criticism for publishing the piece.”

The headline of the column, which was written by Rutgers student Colleen Jolly: “Can Hillel’s Funding Be Put to Better Use Elsewhere?” In the piece, Jolly wonders whether the supposed $18 million cost of the center might be more appropriately spent sprucing up the city surrounding the university — which she says sports streetlights operating only “at 50 percent productivity.” (It’s unclear to me from her column or subsequent reports whether this money is being utilized via public funds, private charitable donations or university funding.)

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At one point, Jolly contends, “If you know anything about Israel, you can conclude that pro-Israel parties are good at getting money into funds, i.e. the purchases of Jewish National Fund and modern-day Palestine.” Hmm.

She later writes: “So I ask you, the reader, if the building for Hillel, seemingly self-funded besides the $3 million dollars gifted … raises any eyebrows. Is the building impractical? As a non-Jewish person, does the Jewish nature make you feel welcome? Do you expect this building to benefit everyone? … This is just something to think about.”

Upon print publication and online posting, many readers didn’t think twice before attacking her sentiments as ignorant at best and veiled anti-Semitism at worst. One commenter sounding off beneath the piece quotes a character from the Adam Sandler film “Billy Madison” to express his disgust:

“What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Yikes.

Editors apparently agreed with some readers’ harsh assessments, pulling the piece from the Targum website and promising more scrutiny for opinion submissions in the future.

Targum editor-in-chief Enrico Cabredo: “The piece was originally published for a number reasons — The Daily Targum does not practice censorship and hopes to create conversation about issues on campus. Looking back, elements in this piece relay discriminatory undertones that do not reflect the values and goals of our organization. These elements, which I personally find distasteful and irrelevant, greatly overshadow any sort of argument the author was trying to make.”

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