Controversial Decision: Florida Orders Deactivation of Pro-Palestinian Student Group, Igniting Free Speech Debate

In a recent development that has sparked controversy, Florida’s state university system chancellor, Ray Rodrigues, issued a memo ordering the deactivation of two chapters of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group at state universities.[0] The decision came after Rodrigues consulted with Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been a vocal supporter of Israel and has taken a hardline stance against pro-Palestinian groups on college campuses.

The memo cites a Florida statute passed in 2019 that makes it a felony to knowingly provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.[1] Rodrigues argues that the SJP chapters are providing support to terrorism because the group’s national chapter released a “toolkit” that linked the recent Hamas attacks on Israel to “the resistance.”[2] According to Rodrigues, this indicates that the chapters are supporting a terrorist organization.[2]

DeSantis has defended the decision, stating that providing material support to terrorism is not protected by the First Amendment. He argues that the SJP chapters have aligned themselves with Hamas and therefore should be held accountable for their actions. DeSantis has also expressed concerns about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the United States that can be traced back to individuals crossing the border illegally.[3]

Critics of the decision argue that it is a violation of free speech rights and an example of cancel culture.[4] They contend that the governor’s order to shut down pro-Palestinian groups on college campuses infringes on students’ right to express their opinions and engage in political activism. Some also accuse DeSantis of using the situation to further his political ambitions as a potential candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

The decision has reignited the debate about the Israel-Hamas conflict on college campuses.[5] Protests and demonstrations have taken place at several universities, with supporters of Palestine calling for solidarity and an end to Israeli aggression.[6] The controversy has also spilled over into the national political arena, with Republican candidates such as DeSantis using the conflict to advocate for stricter immigration policies and stronger border security.[7]

While the two chapters at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida are being deactivated, Rodrigues has stated that the groups are allowed to form another organization as long as they comply with Florida laws and university rules.[8] The fate of other SJP chapters at different universities in Florida remains unclear.

The decision by the Florida state university system to deactivate the SJP chapters has sparked a heated debate about free speech, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the role of pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses. As the controversy continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how it will impact the political landscape and the ongoing discussion surrounding the Middle East conflict.

0. “Florida deactivates pro-Palestine student groups” WESH 2 Orlando, 25 Oct. 2023,

1. “DeSantis-backed ban on pro-Palestinian group runs into First Amendment” MSNBC, 25 Oct. 2023,

2. “State orders deactivation of UF’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter” Alachua Chronicle, 25 Oct. 2023,

3. “Florida disbands pro-Palestine student group, hints at felony charges” Business Insider, 25 Oct. 2023,

4. “Ron DeSantis defends call to ban pro-Palestinian groups from Florida colleges” The Guardian US, 29 Oct. 2023,

5. “Gov. Ron DeSantis moves to shut down Florida university pro-Palestine groups” Axios, 25 Oct. 2023,

6. “Ron DeSantis defends banning pro-Palestinian groups from Florida colleges: ‘Not cancel culture’” NBC News, 29 Oct. 2023,

7. “DeSantis says US should not accept refugees from Gaza” ABC7 News, 17 Oct. 2023,

8. “Florida chancellor targets student group at state universities” WGCU, 26 Oct. 2023,

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