Florida halts order to disband pro-Palestinian student groups

USF’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine would have been affected under State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues’ order to disband the groups. ORACLE PHOTO/JEISLIAN QUILES-SIERRA

State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues announced Florida universities have not deactivated chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), despite a recent order to do so. 

Related: Florida orders pro-Palestinian USF group to disband

Rodrigues made the announcement at Thursday’s Board of Governors (BOG) meeting. He said the universities consulted with the different SJP chapters, who showed administration they were not under the “headship” of the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP).

The constitutions of the campus organizations, which were submitted at the beginning of the school year, state that their organization “is not subservient, or under the National Students for Justice in Palestine,” he said.  

The announcement came shortly after an Oct. 24 letter from Rodrigues ordered university presidents to terminate the pro-Palestinian student groups. This would affect USF’s own SJP chapter, which is currently active. 

The universities are working with the SJP chapters on an “affirmation,” according to Rodrigues.

Rodrigues said the affirmation will confirm that the chapters “reject violence, that they reject that they are part of the Hamas movement, and that they will follow the law.”

In the letter released last month, Rodrigues wrote that NSJP made statements classified as “harmful support for terrorist groups.”

Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist group by the U.S., attacked Israel on Oct. 7. The Israeli cabinet declared war against Hamas one day later, according to the Council of Foreign Relations

Rodrigues wrote that Hamas called the attack “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.” He said NSJP released a toolkit which promoted the terrorist organization. 

The toolkit stated that “We as Palestinian students in exile are part of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement.” Rodrigues said this was a felony under Florida Statute 775.33 (3), which refers to “providing material support or resources for terrorism or to terrorist organizations.”

The order was met with protests on campus in solidarity with the USF SJP chapter and Palestine. 

Related: USF’s response to letter disbanding pro-Palestinian student groups still unclear

Rodrigues said the universities obtained legal opinions after the order. 

The institutions raised concerns about “personal liability for university actors who deactivate the student registered organization,” according to Rodrigues. The BOG is seeking its own legal counsel on the matter, he said.

The Oracle has reached out to university officials for comment.