Controversy Surrounds Deactivation of Students for Justice in Palestine Chapters at Florida Universities

On October 25, 2023, State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues issued a memo ordering the deactivation of any chapters of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group at state universities in Florida.[0] This move came after discussions with Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been cracking down on pro-Palestinian student groups. Rodrigues stated that these chapters must be deactivated due to their alleged support of terrorism.[1]

In the memo, Rodrigues referenced a Florida law that makes it a felony to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.[2] He claimed that the SJP had identified itself as part of a terrorist-led attack, specifically referring to the recent attacks by Hamas on Israel.[3] The DeSantis administration believes that the SJP’s support of these attacks is harmful and violates the law.

The letter obtained by Fox News also mentioned a toolkit released by the National SJP, which drew criticism for linking the militant operation to “the resistance” and urging supporters to take action. The DeSantis administration contends that this toolkit demonstrates the SJP’s support for terrorism. Rodrigues warned school administrators that failure to deactivate these chapters could result in disciplinary action.

The University of Florida and the University of South Florida were specifically mentioned in the memo as having active SJP chapters. However, it is unclear why other universities with active SJP chapters, such as Florida State University, Florida Atlantic University, and Florida International University, were not mentioned.

The decision to deactivate these chapters has faced backlash from those who see it as an infringement on freedom of speech and political freedom. The University of Florida chapter of SJP criticized Governor DeSantis for disrespecting American values and using his political power to bend the law.[4] They believe that the deactivation of their chapter and other pro-Palestinian organizations is a disregard for political freedom.[4]

In response to the memo, Republican State Representative Randy Fine, who had previously supported Governor DeSantis, switched his endorsement to former President Donald Trump.[5] Fine criticized DeSantis for his lack of action in addressing acts of anti-Semitism in Florida. He claimed that DeSantis took longer to commemorate the deaths of six million Jews during the Holocaust than it took the Allies to stop the deaths of six million more.[6]

Fine also mentioned incidents where Nazi supporters assaulted a Rabbi, beat up a Jew, and displayed anti-Semitic banners. He accused DeSantis of doing almost nothing to address these acts of hatred. Fine praised former President Trump for his actions in support of Israel, such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and signing the Abraham Accords.

Governor DeSantis’s administration defended the decision to deactivate the SJP chapters, emphasizing his support for Israel and his efforts to combat anti-Semitism. They highlighted his work in moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, combating anti-Semitism in Florida and its schools, and securing funding for security at Jewish schools and synagogues.[7]

Overall, the deactivation of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at Florida universities has sparked a debate about freedom of speech, support for Israel, and the role of pro-Palestinian organizations on college campuses. The decision has drawn both praise and criticism, with supporters seeing it as necessary to combat terrorism and critics viewing it as an infringement on political freedom.

0. “Governor DeSantis orders UF to close chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine” WCJB, 25 Oct. 2023,

1. “BREAKING: DeSantis to ‘deactivate’ pro-Hamas student groups” Campus Reform, 24 Oct. 2023,

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

3. “DeSantis seeks to ‘deactivate’ pro-Palestinian student groups in Florida” The Guardian US, 25 Oct. 2023,

4. “Florida orders pro-Palestinian student group off its university campuses” Tampa Bay Times, 25 Oct. 2023,

5. “Jewish Republican from Florida rips DeSantis, switches endorsement to Trump” The Hill, 24 Oct. 2023,

6. “OP-ED: State Rep. Randy Fine Endorses Donald Trump for President in 2024”, 24 Oct. 2023,

7. “Florida Neo-Nazis Cost Ron DeSantis His Top Ally” Newsweek, 24 Oct. 2023,

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