Florida University System Directs Removal of Pro-Palestinian Student Group from Campuses
In what critics are decrying as an attack on free speech, the head of Florida’s university system has instructed educational institutions to dissolve on-campus chapters of a pro-Palestinian student organization, asserting that they are associated with and supportive of terrorists.
In an October 24 letter addressed to the presidents of Florida’s 12 universities, State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues stated that two Florida chapters of National Students for Justice in Palestine must be disbanded because the organization has “affirmatively identified” it was involved in the October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
The letter appears to have been sent at the behest of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis: According to an October 25 article in the Tampa Bay Times, an official spokesperson indicated that the governor instructed the University of Florida and the University of South Florida to promptly disband the pro-Palestinian student groups.
The letter from Rodrigues pointed out that an online “toolkit” released by the pro-Palestinian student group characterized the Hamas attack on Israel as “the resistance,” explicitly stating, “Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement.”
The letter argued that the nationwide Students for Justice in Palestine organization openly acknowledged its association with the Hamas attack, and that it is a felony in Florida to “knowingly provide material support … to a designated foreign terrorist organization.”
Rodrigues concluded his letter by stating that the university system is collaborating with Governor DeSantis to ensure they utilize all available resources to address campus demonstrations that go “beyond protected First Amendment speech into harmful support for terrorist groups.”
The chancellor further mentioned that state action might encompass disciplinary employment measures and suspensions of school administrators.
The University of Florida’s National Students for Justice in Palestine chapter issued a statement in response to the action, labeling it as “disgraceful.”
“To bend the law in this manner shows the utmost disrespect not only to any pro-Palestinian organization, but also to anyone who truly cares for political freedom and freedom of speech,” the statement said.
An October 25 statement from the American Association of University Professors urged universities to safeguard the academic freedom of faculty members throughout the country and “to not punish faculty for expressing their views” about the Hamas-Israel conflict.
The organization expressed deep concern about “a number of apparent academic freedom issues nationwide involving faculty speech on the Israeli-Hamas conflict.”