TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Republican state lawmakers are putting pressure on the University of Florida after it suspended three conservative student organizations for allegedly violating COVID-19 rules at an on-campus event.
Lawmakers argue the punishment doesn’t fit the crime and the rules aren’t being applied evenly.
In an official statement, the university said the three organizations were suspended because they failed to register an on-campus event and violated face mask and social distancing guidelines.
“Some people had taken their masks off. We did have to eat,” said Philip Smith, president of the UF chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.
YAF, along with the Network of Enlightened Women and Turning Point USA, were the three organizations suspended by the university.
“Whether we think they’re discriminating against conservatives specifically, we’re not sure,” said Smith.
But state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, doesn’t have any doubts a double standard is at play.
“Yeah there’s no question, and it gets worse. When I asked UF why this group got in trouble, they said that they’ve employed a Stasi-like East German policy where they ask students to rat on other students,” said Fine.
He’s tweeted photos of other UF students that he claimed are evidence the rules aren’t being uniformly applied.
“The only other groups that have had these issues are four fraternities and sororities, which apparently had some sort of raging parties where they may have actually violated the rules,” said Fine. “The issue we have at the University of Florida is their statement implies that there’s been no Black Lives Matter protests where people didn’t fill out a permit, there have been no other groups. It looks so bad.”
Fine said the incident supports the need for legislation already moving through the Legislature, which seeks to protect diversity of thought on college campuses.
Sponsor state Rep. Spencer Roach, R-Fort Myers, said the bill creates protections for students and students government officials facing disciplinary action.
“One thing that we did not envision was that these groups would be targeted,” said Roach.
Fine has suggested cutting UF’s funding over the incident. Roach went one step further.
“The university president owes the taxpayers an explanation, and if he can’t provide one, he needs to resign,” said Roach.
The student groups said they hope they’ll be able to work with UF to resolve the issue soon.
Capitol News Service reached out to the university for further comment on this story in hopes of receiving photos and evidence showing the alleged offenses but had not received a response as of publication.