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Monday, March 04, 2024

UF pro-Palestine organization remains active despite DeSantis’ termination order

Pending action due to legal concerns, absence of terrorist proof

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.

Florida chapters of the pro-Palestine organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, have not been deactivated by Gov. Ron DeSantis, despite the order released by State University System’s chancellor Ray Rodrigues more than three weeks ago.

The national organization has two active chapters at UF and the University of South Florida. The order to deactivate these groups followed concerns that the organization has direct ties to Hamas, the militant group that carried out the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. 

Pending legal concerns about the group’s deactivation process has Rodrigues re-evaluating how to move forward.

“Both universities have obtained legal opinions,” Rodrigues said during the Board of Governors meeting Nov. 9. “We have reviewed those opinions, and in short, they raise concerns about potential personal liability for university actors.”

Rodrigues said in his Oct. 24 memo that a National Students for Justice in Palestine’s toolkit expressed solidarity with Hamas. While Hamas isn’t mentioned in the toolkit, Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, which is the attack Hamas led on Israel, is referenced.

The state chapters may not be under the national organization’s direct leadership. Rodrigues is working with the universities to ensure the groups will reject violence and Hamas’ message.

UF’s chapter is still listed as operational in the directory of student organizations.

The ongoing re-evaluation of the Oct. 24 decision aligns with DeSantis’ attendance at the third Republican presidential primary debate Nov. 8, where he used his actions against Students for Justice in Palestine for leverage in his campaign.

During the debate, DeSantis said the groups had been shut down.

“I already acted in Florida,” DeSantis said at the debate. “We had a group, Students for Justice in Palestine. They said they are common cause with Hamas. They said ‘We’re not just in solidarity, this is what we are.’ We deactivated them.”

Although the state has legal concerns regarding deactivation, there are potential ramifications for UF and USF for knowingly providing a space for terrorism, which is against state law. Under Statute 1005.8, state funds allocated toward colleges and universities can’t be associated with a terrorist state.

The state chapters outline in their campus applications that they are not chartered by the National Students for Justice in Palestine.

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Current and former members of UF’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine didn’t respond for comment.

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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