Final BOT of fall discusses end-of-semester controversies

FIU President Kenneth Jessel at Dec. 7 Board of Trustees meeting \\ Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW

Samuel Larreal | Staff Writer

With their last meeting of the year wrapped up, the Board of Trustees still has loose ends with some of this semester’s most controversial issues. 

During the Dec. 7 meeting, trustees discussed on-campus student housing, freedom of speech, the ongoing response to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a recently confirmed partnership with Baptist Health.  

The university also increased security at the Graham Center ballrooms in response to the wave of student protests objecting to FIU’s official stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, including campus police and Miami-Dade police officers. 

Miami-Dade Police outside of GC Ballrooms // Samuel Larreal PantherNOW.

“After October 7 and the protests that followed, in an abundance of caution, FIU Police have increased visible uniformed patrols on the most populated areas of campus,” FIU Spokesperson Madeline Baro said to PantherNOW. 

“They also have increased security at the last two BOT meetings to make sure there are no disruptions. Our goal is to allow for the lawful exercise of free speech while maintaining continuity of operations for FIU,” Baro said.  

During the meeting, BOT Chair Rogelio Tovar responded to a PantherNOW editorial about an official university statement denouncing a student senate resolution draft calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.  

According to Tovar, the statement, written by him and FIU president Kenneth Jessel, was not intended to interfere with the legislative process. 

“When somebody has an opposing point of view, you’ve got to get comments like this that we’re trying to silence the students,” Tovar said. “We are not.” 

Tovar mentioned that the university’s communications and statements to the media were an attempt to reaffirm the FIU administration’s official position on the conflict.  

“We cannot…allow for that resolution to be distributed as if it is what the university believes and sits silently by,” Tovar continued. “We are not looking to interfere with student government…but we will defend this university and what it stands for.”

SGA President Alex Sutton, Dec. 7 Board of Trustees // Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW. 

SGA President Alex Sutton responded to Tovar, explaining to the board of trustees how the student senate works and how the resolution draft, despite its support among a section of the student body, is still not official. 

“I wouldn’t normally comment on it because it hasn’t even passed our student senate, but I would be remiss not to bring it up just because of the sheer amount of attention that it’s received,” Sutton said.  

According to Sutton, the resolution as it stands right now is not guaranteed to pass a Senate vote and might be subjected to significant amendments. 

“I’d like to let everybody know that I’m committed to letting the legislative process unfold in whatever way it will, whether they choose to vote it down or amend it significantly, both of which are possibilities,” Sutton said.

Trustee Marc Sarnoff during Dec. 7 BOT Meeting // Samuel Larreal, PanteherNOW. 

Trustee Marc Sarnoff also criticized the “Ceasefire Now!” resolution draft, alleging that the sources  Senators used to write the resolution were unreliable.

“What I would say to you, and I can only speak through you to your senators. Don’t quote blog sites. Don’t quote people who were under indictment for providing Congress with wrong information. Don’t quote some United Nations sites,” Sarnoff said.     

Student members of SJP-FIU demand to speak to trustees at the end of the final BOT meeting of the semester | Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW

Immediately after the meeting was adjourned, several members of the Students for Justice in Palestine rose from their seats and condemned FIU’s unconditional support for Israel’s attacks in Gaza after October 7. 

Outside of the GC Ballrooms, SJP members continued to protest, as trustees exited the building. 

SJP Students protest FIU’s stance on Israel-Palestine conflict after meeting was adjourned // Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW.

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