(Editor’s note: University of Florida President Dr. Ben Sasse sent a letter (below) to students and graduates following a vigil held on campus on October 9. The letter was reprinted in the Wall Street Journal on October 13. WSJ said that some U.S. college administrators said, “little or issued equivocating mush” after Hamas’s atrocities, but that Sasse’s letter deserved to be quoted at length.)
Dear Jewish Gator Alums,
I will not tiptoe around this simple fact: What Hamas did is evil and there is no defense for terrorism. This shouldn’t be hard. Sadly, too many people in elite academia have been so weakened by their moral confusion that, when they see videos of raped women, hear of a beheaded baby, or learn of a grandmother murdered in her home, the first reaction of some is to “provide context” and try to blame the raped women, beheaded baby, or the murdered grandmother. In other grotesque cases, they express simple support for the terrorists.
This thinking isn’t just wrong, it’s sickening. It’s dehumanizing. It is beneath people called to educate our next generation of Americans. I am thankful to say I haven’t seen examples of that here at UF, either from our faculty or our student body.
As for us, our educational mission here begins with the recognition and explicit acknowledgment of human dignity – the same human dignity that Hamas’ terrorists openly scorn. Every single human life matters. We are committed to that truth. We will tell that truth.
In the coming days, it is possible that anti-Israel protests will come to UF’s campus. I have told our police chief and administration that this university always has two foundational commitments: We will protect our students and we will protect speech. This is always true: Our Constitution protects the rights of people to make abject idiots of themselves.
But I also want to be clear about this: We will protect our Jewish students from violence. If anti-Israel protests come, we will absolutely be ready to act if anyone dares to escalate beyond peaceful protest. Speech is protected – violence and vandalism are not.
I’m grateful to have heard from so many of you. Like I said at the vigil last night: When evil raises its head, as it has in recent days, it is up to men and women of conscience and courage to draw strength from truth and commit ourselves to the work of building something better – to the work of pursuing justice and pursuing peace. That is what we aim to do through education, compassion, and truth here at the University of Florida.