OPRA Bottom of 9th. Request for Rutgers – Tel Aviv University Contract and Records, Requested by Congressional Candidate Ben Taylor (NJ-9)

By Ben Taylor | 5/13/2024
On May 12, 2024, I submitted an Open Public Record Act (OPRA) request to Rutgers University, asking for access to the public records containing the Rutgers-Tel Aviv University (TAU) contracts, as well as any official communications between Rutgers and TAU regarding the student protests at Rutgers:

You can follow this request here: Contract with Tel Aviv University – an Open Public Records Act request to Rutgers University – OPRAmachine

On May 13, 2024, the New Jersey State Senate voted to pass amendments to OPRA which would severely limit the abilities of New Jerseyans to access these public records. The amendments will be sent to Governor Murphy’s desk.

Recently, Rutgers University president Holloway admitted to collaborating with the FBI and RUPD in a public memo to the Rutgers Board of Governors. The FBI was invited to help crush the student protests against Israel’s genocide in Palestine in a brazen display of First Amendment violations. Today, by passing the amendments restricting OPRA, the New Jersey State Senate has sent a clear message to pro-Palestinian protestors displaying their solidarity: dissent will no longer be tolerated, and we will cover our tracks as we work to silence our students. 

As a Rutgers University alumnus myself, I recall once again our collective struggles as Students for Justice in Palestine in 2020, a student organization which has been repeatedly attacked, silenced, and even suspended as an organization in 2023. During my academic career studying Political Science, OPRA was a key tool for students to organize around corrupt university practices that would have otherwise remained hidden. 

This is why I requested the public records containing the contracts between RU and TAU. With such massive investments in Israeli and American military technology, it explains why President Holloway rejected all divestment demands. However, the root cause of the university administration calling on the FBI to investigate their own students is far uglier and more sinister than that. Akin to Rutgers University’s IC CAE military intelligence program that partners with US intelligence agencies, Tel Aviv University INSS partners with Israel intelligence agencies – one of the most influential and secretive intelligence programs in the world. It is no coincidence that the FBI came to Rutgers during the pro-Palestine student encampment.

Thus, this OPRA request must be granted in accordance with the fullest extent of the Act’s current version, before any amendments are signed by Governor Murphy.  It was submitted BEFORE the change just voted which has not been signed. 

We, the alumni of Rutgers University; we, the Students for Justice in Palestine; we, the people of New Jersey who demand access to public records; we, the people who stand proudly with strength and solidarity with Palestine and against the Israeli occupation; we call for this request to be fully granted. 

OPRA is under attack at the same time as peaceful protests are being violently dispersed, and as the Israeli occupation invades the Palestinian city of Rafah and bans Al Jazeera news. TikTok is under attack for showing the world the horrors of genocide in Gaza. The United States Senate is threatening the ICC if arrest warrants are issued for Israeli officials. Every desperate action taken by this government to hide Israel’s crimes shows that our movement is making those in power very anxious. 

As the New Jersey Green Party congressional candidate in District 9, I condemn the passing of these OPRA amendments just one day after my submission requesting Rutgers-Tel Aviv contracts to be publicly provided. The people of New Jersey and the students of the world are watching. Rutgers University must not only divest fully from Israel and end its partnerships with Tel Aviv University– its administration must also disclose its contracts and communications with TAU after subjecting its students to FBI investigations and the Israeli occupation’s intelligence machine. 

Defend OPRA. 
Defend the first amendment.
Disclose the Truth
Shame on Holloway.
Free Palestine.

Ben Taylor is a Green Party Congressional candidate running for United States House of Representatives in NJ-9. Rutgers University Class of 2021.