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Remarks by State University System of Florida Chancellor Ray Rodrigues at the November 9, 2023 Florida Board of Governors Meeting

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Video of the meeting is available at The Florida Channel website. Chancellor Rodrigues' remarks related to Students for Justice in Palestine begin at 2:28:00.

Finally, I would like to provide you an update on a recent memorandum that my office circulated related to concerns about student chapters and their affiliations with a national organization. 

On October 7, during a holy Jewish holiday, the recognized terrorist organization Hamas launched an unprovoked attack on Israel, and among those killed were infants, women, and the elderly.

Gov. DeSantis, the State University System, and the Florida College System have all condemned these attacks. Thanks to Gov. DeSantis’ bold leadership, our state immediately responded and prompted coordination between our two educational systems and law enforcement in making clear that we stand in solidarity with Israel and will ensure the safety of all of our Jewish students.

On October 12, the National Students for Justice in Palestine held a national “Day of Resistance.” Leading up to the day, the National Students for Justice in Palestine released a toolkit referring to the October 7 terrorist attack, operation “Al-Aqsa Flood,” as “the resistance.” 

In addition to promoting discriminatory and violent behavior towards Israelis and Jews, the toolkit also promotes supporting a terrorist organization. Specifically, and this was noted in the memo that I sent out, the toolkit stated, “Palestinian students in exile are part of this movement, not in solidarity with the movement. And the movement, or the resistance, is the Hamas-led Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.”

At the time the toolkit was issued, at least two of our universities reported an active registered student organization with the name “Students for Justice in Palestine.” 

On October 24, in consultation with Gov. DeSantis, I issued a memo directing the presidents of those institutions to deactivate the student registered organizations named “Students for Justice in Palestine.” In that same memo, I also encouraged the presidents to facilitate the reconstitution of those organizations, either under a new charter with a different organization or a new name that was compliant with our state laws. This action was taken because the actions of the National Students for Justice in Palestine violated our state’s anti-terrorism statute, and therefore we felt no chapter operating under their charter or headship or control should be active on our campuses here in Florida.

Both institutions consulted with the Students for Justice in Palestine on their campuses, their registered student organizations. These organizations represented to administration that they are not chartered or under the headship of the National Students for Justice in Palestine. 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 that their organization is not subservient or under the National Students for Justice in Palestine. Therefore, the universities have not deactivated their university chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. 

Additionally, both universities have obtained legal opinions. We have reviewed those opinions, and, in short, they raise concerns about potential personal liability for university actors who deactivate the student registered organization. 

As the events in Israel have unfolded, our systems and our universities have all been diligent to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of our students. It is our priority. We have worked to ensure an adequate police presence on our campuses to maintain order and a safe environment. Without order, there is chaos.

At this time, we are taking two steps. First, the board is seeking our own outside legal counsel on this matter. And two, we are working with the two universities to seek an express affirmation from their campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. Within that affirmation will be three components:

  • That they reject violence.
  • That they reject they are a part of the Hamas movement.
  • And that they will follow the law.

By the end of the week, I will follow up with the university presidents with the affirmations to bring to their chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at their universities. To date, our campuses have avoided the violence and anti-Semtism that is occurring on campuses all across this nation. In Florida, we will not tolerate violent activity, anti-Semitic activity, or a failure to observe the law. The memorandum and materials that I mentioned today have been provided to you in Onboard, and I will follow up once we have more information and guidance from our outside council.

Thank you, Chair Lamb, and I yield the floor back to you.