Senator Rick Scott Urges USF President to Protect Jewish Students from Attacks Ahead of Anti-Israel Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Rick Scott sent a letter to University of South Florida (USF) President Rhea Law sharing the USF Hillel’s concerns ahead of a student-led “First Annual Tampa Bay BDS Conference” on USF’s campus later this month considering the BDS movement’s close association with hate for Israel and the Jewish community. In his letter, Senator Scott notes that anti-Israel events held on college campuses have previously led to unacceptable antisemitic attacks and violence, and reiterates to President Law the need to ensure the safety and well-being of every student.

Read the full letter HERE or below.

President Rhea Law

University of South Florida

4202 East Fowler Avenue

Tampa, FL 33620

Dear President Law:

Thank you for your efforts to ensure our students receive a world-class education that sets them up for the future, while maintaining the safety and well-being of all students on University of South Florida’s (USF) campus. I share this commitment, which is why I write to reiterate USF Hillel’s concerns with the “First Annual Tampa Bay BDS Conference” taking place on USF’s campus this month.

I understand this event is organized by Students for Socialism (SFS) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and respect these students’ rights to free speech. However, I was proud to lead an effort as governor to implement Florida’s anti-BDS law, which prohibits public entities from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel to show the world that Florida does not support those who boycott Israel.

Recently, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) hosted the “Palestine Writes Literature Festival” on campus which included numerous high-profile and outspoken critics of Israel, specifically Roger Waters. The State Department’s US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, has publicly stated that she “wholeheartedly concur[red]” with the “condemnation of Roger Waters and his despicable Holocaust distortion.” However, despite public concerns prior to the event by the university’s Jewish population as well as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the UPenn Hillel was vandalized before a service for Orthodox Jewish community members, when an unidentified perpetrator damaged the building’s lobby while shouting antisemitic slurs. This is not the first time that anti-Israel events held on college campuses have led to antisemitic attacks and violence.

You may be aware that there are federal resources for educational institutions such as the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which offers technical assistance regarding Title VI’s prohibition of antisemitic discrimination. OCR may also be able to assist with the filing of discrimination complaints. Additionally, the Department of Education offers funding and resources through its technical assistance centers. And as always, my team stands ready to assist with accessing any of the resources above.

I am confident that, with your leadership and commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive campus environment, the USF can navigate these challenges effectively.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and for your dedication to the well-being of the USF community.


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