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UF threatens student protesters with suspension, banishment from campus for 3 years


The University of Florida threatened pro-Palestinian student demonstrators with suspension and banishment from campus for three years if they violate a host of rules of behavior over protests that continued for a third day Friday.

The university said employees or professors caught breaking its rules would be fired. 

Some of the rules were specific, such as prohibiting protesters from using bullhorns or speakers to amplify their voices, possessing weapons, or protesting inside campus buildings. Other rules were far more vague, such as one that said “no disruption” or another that said signs must be carried in hands at all times. 

Campus police circulated the list of prohibited activities late Thursday as about 50 protesters gathered for a second day of demonstrations. Early Friday, a university spokeswoman confirmed the authenticity of the document. It said permitted activities included “speech,” “expressing viewpoints,” and “holding signs in hands.” It wasn’t clear whether temporarily dropping a sign during hours-long protests would end in an arrest or trespass order.

Other prohibited activities included littering, camping, or using tents, sleeping bags, or pillows, blocking anyone’s path, and “no sleeping” on a campus where students often doze in the sun between classes.

The letter was not signed or dated but indicated it was sent from the university’s Division of Student Life. The university is a public institution and its campus is generally not restricted.

Several influential Republicans on Friday publicly praised UF’s handling of the demonstrations on social media, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, who referred to UF’s distribution of the flier as “a matter of will” in a post on X, formerly Twitter. The governor was responding to another post praising UF that said all universities need to do is enforce their code of conduct.

Republican U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack, who represents Gainesville, also applauded the school.

“Well done @BenSasse and @UF!  This is how you protect free speech and the peace. The violence and threats we have seen on campuses around the country is unacceptable. #FAFO,” she wrote on X.

Florida Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, the state Legislature’s only Jewish Republican, commended UF along with other universities for their efforts to shut down on-campus encampments.

“As far as these Muslim terror campus takeovers go, this is perfect. It preserves 1A while preventing disruption, and provides severe consequences for those Muslim terror supporters who refuse to comply. Every University in Florida - and the country - should copy and paste it; any that don’t (or haven’t taken similar action, like we see at Emory or UT), are no more than madrasas,” he posted on X.

The protesters late Thursday urged the university administration to end investments with publicly traded companies that sell weapons or military technology to Israel. A significant number of campus police officers watched nearby but did not immediately intervene. A large sign erected on two tall poles that read, “It’s not a war, it’s a genocide,” had been removed late Thursday.

Campus police did not conduct any arrests Thursday or early Friday, according to county jail records. A police spokesman, Capt. Latrell Simmons said the demonstrators were cooperating with law enforcement.

The scene at UF, home to the largest number of Jewish public college students in America, was so far a peaceful contrast to demonstrations at some U.S. universities this week, where police arrested demonstrators, put some in zip ties and used an electrical device to stun at least one at Emory University in Atlanta.

At Florida State University, sprinklers disrupted a group of student protestors on campus on Thursday. However, a university spokesperson denied that the sprinklers were turned on to shut down the demonstration.  

UF is home to about 55,000 students, including about 6,500 Jewish students. There were no classes on Thursday or Friday this week so that students could prepare for final exams starting next week.

The two days of relatively mild protests at UF also occurred in a different political environment than at other schools. Staunch allies of Israel, DeSantis, and UF’s new university president, Ben Sasse, have openly warned they would not tolerate violent pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses. 

Last year, DeSantis tried unsuccessfully to ban two pro-Palestinian student groups at UF and the University of South Florida in Tampa, Students for Justice in Palestine, after accusing them of providing material support to Hamas. Citing First Amendment protections, the universities have allowed the groups to continue operating on their campuses.

DeSantis this week said pro-Palestinian student protesters should be expelled from their universities, and that those who are international students should have their visas canceled. Sasse, the former Republican senator from Nebraska, has said, “We will absolutely be ready to act if anyone dares to escalate beyond peaceful protest.”

The protesters this week demanded that the university prohibit speakers affiliated with Israel’s military and promise not to suspend or arrest students engaged in peaceful protests. The former demand is a hot-button among conservatives who control Florida’s Legislature, who have imposed new rules requiring that colleges and universities host guest speakers with a range of political viewpoints.

The protesters also said a student oversight committee should approve future investments by the university. UF’s endowment is worth more than $2.5 billion. The university said the money supports faculty and students, including professorships and financial aid for undergraduates, graduate fellowships, and student life and activities.

A similar protest on the campus on Wednesday drew some Jewish counterprotesters. Campus police kept the groups apart. There was no counterprotest on Thursday.

Carlos Alemany, 21, a political science major from Windemere near Orlando, said he hoped the protest would educate others about the brutality of what is happening in Gaza, where Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians since Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel last October.

Alemany compared the killings in Gaza to a holocaust, a destruction or slaughter on a mass scale. The term has a particular meaning among Jews, who suffered the murder of 6 million people by Nazis during the Holocaust of World War II.

“There is a technical term for the word holocaust,” Alemany said. “And this is exactly what it is.” 

Kenise Jackson, 20, a marketing sophomore, attended the demonstrations in solidarity with hundreds of college students who have recently been arrested at Pro-Palestinian rallies across the U.S and call for a ceasefire to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

"That's ultimately what I want – for people to stop dying," she said.

UF Faculty Senate did not respond to emails or phone calls asking for comment. 

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporters can be reached at afriedman1@ufl.edu  and vivienneserret@ufl.edu. You can donate to support our students here.


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  • rjckeuka4

    As a retired Student Affairs Vice President at a public university in the State, I applaud the position taken at UF to allow peaceful demonstrations, but to draw a FIRM line about threats to any individual or culture. I don't agree with the "Culture War" interpretation of it, but that's less important. Such statements should have been promulgated by universities across the country right after the Oct. 7 attack. If university administrators couldn't anticipate what has ultimately transpired on their campuses, they shouldn't be working there. If I had still been working on Oct. 7, I would have been in my president's office the next day promoting, and even writing, a strong statement condemning HAMAS, but clearly spelling out the limits of demonstrations and threats to anyone from either side, and the STRONG action the university would take against violators. Every university Judicial Code in the country contains a statement prohibiting any "threat to the health, welfare and safety" of anyone on the campus...including student groups. And universities shouldn't be hesitant to us it! It only takes quick action and the suspension of the first few violators to send a strong and clear message to others, but one has to have the courage to stand up and do it! And for those non-students who are always involved, a few quick arrests has a way of quieting them as well. Unfortunately, the 3 university presidents who testified before Congress were an embarrassment! They didn't know their Judicial Codes and certainly wouldn't take a strong stand. And look what they got...2 driven from their jobs (legitimately)...and nothing but criticism and shame for their campuses. University administrators across the country were slow and weak to respond and it's led to the current situation of on-line classes, cancelled speakers and commencements and not only disruption of the universities, but society as well. I lived through the campus uprisings of the 60's. There was a lot to be learned! As Andrew Jackson once said, "one-man-with-courage-makes-a-majority." Unfortunately, too few of them on our campuses.

    Richard Correnti

    Sunday, April 28 Report this