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Monday, March 04, 2024

DeSantis administration demands deactivation of pro-Palestinian university student chapters

The State University System, DeSantis say the student chapters have ties to support for ‘Hamas terrorism’

An attendee of UF SJP’s discussion in Turlington wearing a Palestine keffiyeh neck scarf on Thursday Oct. 12, 2023.
An attendee of UF SJP’s discussion in Turlington wearing a Palestine keffiyeh neck scarf on Thursday Oct. 12, 2023.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Chancellor of the State University System of Florida Ray Rodrigues ordered Florida universities to deactivate two state chapters of a national pro-Palestinian organization Tuesday, claiming the organizations show support for "Hamas terrorism."

The organization, National Students for Justice in Palestine, which has chapters with at least two Florida universities including UF, is a student movement that advocates for the liberation of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. 

In a Tuesday memo, Rodrigues said the National SJP released a toolkit expressing support for Palestinian militant group Hamas, which carried out an attack on Israel Oct. 7 that resulted in the death of roughly 1,400 people. 

The letter says the organization’s toolkit refers to the Hamas operation as "the resistance" and says "Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement." 

The statement violates a state law that prohibits knowingly showing support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, according to the memo. 

"Based on the National SJP’s support of terrorism, in consultation with Governor DeSantis, the student chapters must be deactivated,” Rodrigues wrote. “These two student chapters may form another organization that complies with Florida state statutes and university policies.”

The memo comes almost two weeks after UF’s Students for Justice in Palestine held a teach-in at Turlington Hall to address the history of Palestinian human rights and geopolitical issues. It was also sent the day before the UF chapter planned to participate in a national walkout and vigil for Palestine on the corner of 13th Street and University Avenue.

Following the Oct. 7 attack, UF SJP said in an Instagram post it was mourning the loss of Palestinian and Israeli civilian life.

“On behalf of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida, we find the recent attempt by the DeSantis administration to shut down our chapter disgraceful,” UF’s SJP chapter wrote in an email. 

The UF chapter cited the memo as disregarding freedom of speech and disrespecting pro-Palestinian organizations.

The memo explains that the State University System will continue to collaborate with DeSantis and SUS’s Board of Governors to suppress campus demonstrations that imply support for Hamas. School officials who do not comply with the memo could face adverse employment actions and suspension.

UF President Ben Sasse addressed UF Jewish alumni in an email two weeks ago denouncing Hamas’ violence. 

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“I will not tiptoe around this simple fact: What Hamas did is evil and there is no defense for terrorism,” Sasse wrote.

Sasse faced scrutiny from students for his lack of comment on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The death toll in Gaza surpassed 5,000 since airstrikes began Oct. 7, according to the United Nations.

UF did not respond in time for publication.

Contact Sophia Bailly at sbailly@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @sophia_bailly.

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Sophia Bailly

Sophia Bailly is a second-year journalism major and covers politics for the enterprise desk. Some of her favorite things include The Beatles, croissants and Agatha Christie books. When she's not writing stories she's either reading or going for a run.


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