Ron DeSantis streamlines university transfer process for Jewish students fearing campus antisemitism

Schools are required to allow extra time to submit applications and to waive the minimum credit requirements.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has directed his state’s university system to streamline the transfer process for Jewish students seeking to leave a school where they have a “well-founded fear of antisemitic persecution.”

With Tuesday’s announcement, the State University System of Florida and the Florida College System will now waive certain transfer application requirements that would “otherwise unnecessarily burden” the transfer of Jewish students at a time of surging antisemitism on US college campuses. Among the directives, Florida’s public universities are now required to give students extra time to submit their applications and “waive” minimum credit requirements that could prevent or delay otherwise academically eligible students from matriculating at a new campus.

“With leaders of so-called elite universities enabling antisemitic activities rather than protecting their students from threats and harassment, it is understandable that many Jewish students are looking for alternatives and looking to Florida,” DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for President of the United States, said in a press release. “Throughout my tenure as governor, we have implemented measures to safeguard our Jewish communities from hatred in the K-20 school system, and with this announcement, we want to again make it clear that Jewish students are welcome to live and learn in Florida, where they will be respected and not persecuted due to their faith.”

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DeSantis’ directive comes amid a surge in pro-Hamas demonstrations across the world. Universities in the US have been hubs of such antisemitism since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, with students and faculty both demonizing Israel and rationalizing the Palestinian terror group’s rampage. Incidents of harassment and even violence against Jewish students have also increased. As a result, Jewish students have expressed feeling unsafe and unprotected on campuses. In some cases, Jewish communities on campuses have been forced to endure threats of rape and mass slaughter.

Additionally, in the three months since Oct. 7, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has recorded 505 antisemitic incidents on US college campuses, and during that same period, antisemitic incidents across the country skyrocketed by 360 percent compared to the prior year.

DeSantis has in the past implemented policies aimed at curbing extreme anti-Zionist activity on higher education campuses in Florida.

In October, the state’s university system, working in consultation with the governor, directed public universities to “deactivate” chapters of the national group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for defending Hamas following the Palestinian terrorist group’s invasion of Israel and massacre of civilians earlier that month. In a memo, State University System of Florida chancellor Ray Rodrigues referenced how, following Hamas’ onslaught, the National Students for Justice in Palestine organization called for a “Day of Resistance” on college campuses across the US, distributing propaganda aimed at demonizing Israel and seemingly defending Hamas.

In Dec. 2021, DeSantis’ office issued a statement advising Florida State University not to allow the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), with which it was an institutional partner, from operating a boycott of Israel on its campus. The association at the time was considering — and later approved — an endorsement of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

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DeSantis has also tackled antisemitism not directly related to Israel, signing in April a bill that was described by fellow lawmakers as “the strongest antisemitism bill in the United States.” Aimed at countering “public nuisances,” the measure bans certain forms of littering, harassment, or intimidation based on religious heritage, the projection of images onto buildings without the owner’s permission, and the malicious disruption of a school or religious assembly. Neo-Nazis and other hate groups use many of these “nuisance” tactics, such as littering areas with antisemitic leaflets.

“In the United States, you have a constitutionally protected right to say whatever you want, no matter how distasteful it is, no matter how hateful it is,” DeSantis said after signing the bill. “But you don’t have a right to threaten people, you don’t have a right to harass people, you don’t have a right to intimidate somebody, particularly on the basis of somebody’s religious affiliation.”