Florida Universities Refuse Order to Shut Down Pro-Hamas Groups

Two Florida universities are refusing to disband their chapters of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), despite a directive from Governor Ron DeSantis last month cracking down on the pro-Hamas organization.

The student groups–which share a name with the national SJP–were previously reported to have been deactivated. On Wednesday, DeSantis referenced the order during the third GOP primary debate.

“We had a group of students for Justice of Palestine,” he said. “They said they are common cause with Hamas. They said, ‘We’re not just in solidarity. This is what we are.’ We deactivated them. We’re not gonna use tax dollars to fund Jihad.”

But State University System of Florida Chancellor Ray Rodrigues now says that two chapters of the SJP remain active on Florida campuses.

At a Board of Governors meeting on Thursday, Rodrigues announced that the University of Florida and the University of South Florida were refusing the directive, partially due to legal concerns. According to the chancellor, both student groups “clearly state” in their constitutions that they are not chartered under the SJP despite sharing the same name.

“The constitutions of both organizations, which were submitted by them at the beginning of the school year when they were registered as an active student-registered organization, clearly state their organization is not subservient or under the national Students for Justice in Palestine,” Rodrigues announced. “Therefore, the universities have not deactivated their university chapters of SJP.”

According to Rodrigues, legal opinions from the two universities reportedly “raise concerns about potential personal liability.”

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In a statement published by CNN, DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said it was “reprehensible to see some university administrators, after the fact, creating bureaucratic roadblocks.”

“We trust that the [Board of Governors’] steps today are part of an effort to see this directive through,” Redfern said. “We expect our Jewish students will be free from threats on our campuses.”

Last month, Governor DeSantis directed the Florida University System to begin deactivating student chapters of the SJP after the national organization declared itself “part” of the Hamas terror movement. In an Oct. 24 letter, Chancellor Rodrigues stated, “These chapters exist under the headship of the National Students for Justice in Palestine, who distributed a toolkit identifying themselves as part of the Operation AlAqsa Flood.”

“Based on the National SJP’s support of terrorism, in consultation with Governor DeSantis, the student chapters must be deactivated. These two student chapters may form another organization that complies with Florida state statutes and university policies. The two institutions should grant these two chapters a waiver for the fall deadlines, should reapplication take place.”

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“Our campuses have avoided the violence and anti-Semitism that is occurring on campuses all across this nation,” Rodrigues said during the Thursday meeting, according to Politico. “In Florida, we will not tolerate violent activity, antisemitic activity, or a failure to observe the law.”

According to Rodrigues, the state is also seeking legal counsel.

On Tuesday, Brandeis University in Boston officially deactivated its campus chapter of the SJP, stating that it “openly supports Hamas, a terrorist organization.”

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