Florida halts efforts to dismantle pro-Palestinian student organizations

A proposal to ban a pro-Palestinian student group from Florida’s state university campuses has been put on hold as officials reassess the plan. State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues announced on Thursday that the student groups at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, believed to be affiliated with Students for Justice in Palestine, are actually not officially recognized by the national organization, as reported by The Tampa Bay Times.

Rodrigues, in collaboration with Governor Ron DeSantis, had targeted these student groups, arguing that their association with the pro-Palestinian organization aligned them with Hamas attacks on Israel. However, both universities have sought legal opinions that raised concerns about the potential personal liability of university officials responsible for disbanding these groups.

Consequently, Rodrigues is now seeking external legal advice and working with the universities to obtain statements from the student groups. These statements will serve to affirm the groups’ rejection of violence, disassociation from the Hamas movement, and commitment to upholding the law.

The student group leaders have not yet responded to requests for comment, according to the newspaper report. Rodrigues emphasized Florida’s commitment to maintaining campuses free from violence, antisemitism, and non-compliance with the law, stating during a meeting with the university system Board of Governors, “In Florida, we will not tolerate violent activity, antisemitic activity, or failure to observe the law.”

The original proposal received criticism from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which expressed concerns regarding free speech. Rodrigues has indicated that he will provide an update on the matter to the Board of Governors at a later date.

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