Students for Justice in Palestine deactivation simply more censorship

Students at a protest organized by Students for Justice in Palestine | Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW

PantherNow Editorial Board

Last week, the Florida State University System issued a memo ordering the deactivation of two official chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at Florida state universities. 

The reason for such timely censorship appears to be related to SJP allegedly identifying itself with Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a terrorist-led attack. 

PantherNOW finds such action from Tallahassee concerning. 

The toolkit for SJP members for the Oct. 12 Day of Resistance was the point of condemnation from FL-SUS, particularly the phrase “We as Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement.”

However, a look at the document shows that this phrase is not directly connected to the horrific Hamas attacks earlier in October – it appears to be in regard to broader Palestinian resistance. 

PantherNOW condemns terrorist activity of all kinds and recognizes the complexity of the conflict in Israel and Palestine – there are extreme viewpoints from every angle on what is a long-standing, complicated issue.

What’s simple to see, however, is that the shutdown of Students for Justice in Palestine comes at a time when Florida’s government seems to enjoy snuffing out anything that even vaguely steps away from what is politically in vogue. 

It is now becoming the norm in Florida to repress dissenting voices, rather than engaging them and uncovering the impetus of their passion. 

This is a mistake. It should not be surprising that students who care about an issue should be outspoken. It is only natural that they assume the mantle of leadership by unabashedly taking an active stance on such issues. 

Tallahassee wants to shadow those aspects of life that might make an intrusion into its bubble. College students, faculty and higher education itself are constantly placed under a microscope and seen as its target.  

The deactivation of SJP chapters will likely do little, if anything, to prevent the terrorism the state is afraid is being “materially supported” by student groups. 

FIU’s own chapter is not officially registered with the university and remains unaffected by the memo – how many other chapters are in the same boat?

This order shows that Tallahassee isn’t at all serious about “preventing terrorism.” A little more than a memo would be needed for that. 

Instead, this is just another instance of chest-beating where the state saw something it didn’t like and decided to flex and show students and universities who’s in charge.

Congratulations. Florida looks stupid yet again.  

Putting a muzzle on an outspoken student population under the veneer of curbing terrorist activities is asinine. It is on college campuses that ideas are tested, it is there that young people are forged to become the finest product they are meant to become. 

Tallahassee must recognize that it cannot continuously arrest the formation of independent thinkers who wish to chart a new beginning. It should recognize that nobody holds a monopoly on all good and wise ideas and that these must be perpetually tested. 

These constant encroachments on freedom of speech bode ill for the state. It symbolizes the growing specter of tyranny that quells whatever it deems inimical to its vision. 

If Tallahassee feels even the vestige of responsibility toward students and their intellectual growth, it will understand that silencing passionate voices is incredibly unwise.

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