Confused Ivy League Presidents Should Look to the Sunshine State

“The University of Florida is not a daycare,” declared Steve Orlando, a spokesman for the flagship institution of the state’s public university system—consistently rated the country’s best—in an official statement released Monday evening. “We do not treat protesters like children,” he continued, “they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they will face the consequences.”

Late last week, UF’s student office issued a simple one-page directive advising pro-Hamas protesters that while their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly will be respected, disrupting university operations will not be tolerated, and instead, will be subject to swift disciplinary action. Offenders who block access to campus, occupy public spaces, violate Florida trespassing and public nuisance laws, or commit harassment or assault can expect to be arrested, barred from campus for three years, and—if they are enrolled students—suspended for the duration of that time. Faculty and staff members who violate the rules can likewise be banned from campus and “separated from employment.”

This falls somewhat short of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s earlier public call for disruptive student protesters to be expelled and, if they are foreign citizens present on student visas, deported. But the point was clear.

When protesters tested UF’s resolve on Monday, law enforcement moved in after giving final warnings. The campus police and Florida Highway Patrol officers arrested nine people on charges including failure to obey a lawful command, resisting arrest without violence, and, in one case, battery. Their names and mugshots were released to the media.

UF has confirmed that they have all been banned from campus for three years. That same day, at the University of South Florida, three more protesters were arrested at a demonstration organized by the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, a campus organization that previously had been suspended and thereby lost its right to organize campus activities. On Tuesday evening, 10 more USF protestors were arrested. Other protests on Florida’s public college campuses have unfolded without serious contention.

Compare this highly effective balance of constitutional rights and public order at Florida’s state institutions to the multiplying disasters that were once our nation’s most prestigious universities. Inside their crumbling ivory towers, radical students and faculty members alike are now seizing buildings, harassing Jews, assaulting police officers and journalists, and blocking access to study, while weak-kneed administrators cower in their offices issuing meaningless directives and threatening consequences that most often never materialize, though some universities have, under considerable public pressure, removed encampments and authorized police action.

Many of our once-elite institutions are reaping the whirlwind they have sown. They are overrun with dubious “activist-scholars,” they’ve admitted students for ideological conformity and racial box-checking rather than demonstrated academic ability, and they’ve filled their staff rosters with worthless diversity, equity, and inclusion personnel. If the demonstrations over the past days have proved anything, it is that the progressive left has no respect for education, no interest in dialogue, and zero tolerance for any opinion other than its own. The liberal administrators twisted the concept of basic fairness to let these malign and disturbed individuals pass their gates. They have neither the courage nor the scruples to challenge them and would rather watch their facilities be smashed and their honest charges live in fear than avail themselves of basic laws, property rights, and police protection.

If these vaunted institutions truly were possessed of open minds and strategic sense, they would look to Florida’s thriving universities and at least mimic their constitutionally minded resolve.

“Columbia will burn,” wrote pro-Hamas protestors at New York City’s Ivy League institution, in mockery of an earlier communication from Columbia President Nemat Shafik telling them to remove their campus encampment. She at least appears to be looking to Florida for guidance. Whether she stays the course or not, there’s no danger that her counterparts in Florida will let their universities burn.

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