University of Florida President Ben Sasse Writes Op-Ed in Response to Pro-Palestine Protests on College Campuses

University of Florida President Ben Sasse Writes Op-Ed in Response to Pro-Palestine Protests on College Campuses
UF Pres. Ben Sasse (Cred.

On Friday, University of Florida (UF) president Ben Sasse published an opinion editorial on the Wall Street Journal titled “The Adults Are Still in Charge at UF” in opposition to the wave of protests supporting Palestine that have been taking place internationally across college campuses.

Sasse called the protests violent, obstructive and anti-semetic. He wrote  “Just as we have an obligation to protect speech, we have an obligation to keep our students safe. Throwing fists, storming buildings, vandalizing property, spitting on cops and hijacking a university aren’t speech.”

It isn’t entirely clear throughout the article if Sasse is referring to actions by protesters in a general sense or specific actions by UF protesters, as one UF protester is being charged with felony battery for allegedly spitting on a police officer’s shoulder, but no protesters at UF have vandalized property, stormed buildings, or punched police officers.  

The protests at the UF have not shown any indication of hatred or anti-semitism towards Jewish people. A large fraction of the protesters are Jewish, and Jewish rituals frequently occur at the Plaza of the Americas, where UF’s non-stop protest has been taking place for nearly three weeks. Jewish people protesting for Palestine have reported facing anti-semitism themselves, with some disclosing they have been called “traitors” for their stance against the Israeli government. 

Jewish protester leads Sabbath ritual. The ritual traditionally uses wine, however, grape-juice was used due to some participants being under 21.

Sasse only specifically calls out UF protesters in one paragraph of the article, stating, “At [UF], we have repeatedly, patiently explained two things to protesters: We will always defend your rights to free speech and free assembly—but if you cross the line on clearly prohibited activities, you will be thrown off campus and suspended. In Gainesville, that means a three-year prohibition from campus. That’s serious. We said it. We meant it. We enforced it. We wish we didn’t have to, but the students weighed the costs, made their decisions, and will own the consequences as adults. We’re a university, not a daycare. We don’t coddle emotions, we wrestle with ideas.”

Sasse appeared to be referencing the recent arrests at UF which spurred due to three protesters sitting in chairs and playing Uno. Chairs were listed among the list of “prohibited items and activities” issued by the Student Life Division at UF. 

Protesters sitting in chairs and playing Uno shortly before being arrested

Sasse made a comment on a common protest chant which goes, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” He said “Which river? Which sea?” It appears that Sasse did not know the protesters are referring to the geographical locations of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 

In the following paragraph, Sasse referred to protesters as “Young men and women with little grasp of geography or history.”

Sasse finished his article saying the recent actions of protesters aren’t in line with the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he protested racial violence and segregation in the 1960s. “He showed us a way protest can persuade rather than intimidate. We ought to model that for our students. We do that by recommitting to the fundamentals of free speech, consequences and genuine education.” 

A protester holding a sign displaying a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Jack Walden

Jack Walden

Jack Walden is the creator of Gnvinfo and a 2nd year journalism major at Santa Fe College. From general information, to exposing falsehoods and corruption, Jack seeks to deliver the truth.
Gainesville, FL