May 2, 2024 - News

USF boosts graduation security amid protests

Illustration of a large picket sign next to a group of smaller picket signs.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The University of South Florida boosted law enforcement presence at this year's commencement ceremonies, which began on Thursday, amid ongoing pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

Why it matters: Protests over the Israel-Hamas war erupted on college campuses nationwide in April. The movement has been slow to develop in Florida but seems to have found its firmest foothold at USF.

Catch up quick: Campus police arrested three people on Monday in connection with a pro-Palestinian protest organized by the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at USF.

  • Nearly 100 protesters returned to the campus on Tuesday. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters who refused to leave by 5pm, per the Tampa Bay Times. Ten people were arrested.
  • Protesters face misdemeanor charges of resisting an officer without violence and unlawful assembly, as well as felony charges for battery on a law enforcement officer, among others.

Between the lines: The State University System of Florida sent a memo to Florida's public universities that said, "No commencement ceremony should be canceled" because of these protests.

  • USF officials tell Axios that the university's usual security measures for commencement include bag checks, metal detector screenings, and prohibitions on signs and noisemakers.

What they're saying: "Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated," Kevin Watler, a spokesperson for USF, says. "Anyone who disrupts, distracts, or otherwise interferes with the ceremony will be" removed.

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