The Hidden Antisemitism of America’s Largest Public University

Jewish students at the nation’s largest public university are currently enduring a climate of rampant and unchecked antisemitism, ranging from police discrimination to death threats.

My name is Milo Gilad. I have been a student at the University of Central Florida (UCF), America’s largest public campus with around 70,000 students, for the past four years. Until recently, I’ve had a positive experience as an Israeli-American student.

When October 7th happened, I naively assumed our campus community would sympathize. Initially, our University’s President issued a statement condemning the attack and offering support to the Jewish community. But multiple student organizations came out swinging against the Jewish community: making unsubstantiated and racist claims about Jews and Israel. Still, we expected the support of our campus administration.

We were blindsided when, on November 1st, 2023, the UCF Police Department tore down all of the flyers posted by Jewish students raising awareness for the hostages since they were “unapproved” – but conspicuously left up every other unapproved flyer in the area. Later, they threatened the Jewish students who put flyers up with criminal mischief charges if they put new ones up. Dismayed, the students discontinued their campaign.

Anti-Jewish students then began their own flyering campaign, putting up posters that claimed Israel had “colonized Palestine”, that Israel was perpetuating “apartheid” and that Israeli Jews should be forced out. Their flyers contained antisemitic imagery including a white man being suffocated by a Jewish hand. Some of these flyers were superglued to campus buildings to prevent their removal.

Rather than remove these flyers, as they did for the Jewish students’ flyers, UCF’s Police Department abruptly changed its 5 year-old policy. They privately stated that they would no longer enforce the law because flyer removal was time-consuming. Taking this as a sign that flyering was now permitted, a Jewish ally again posted flyers of the hostages in Gaza – only to be stopped at midnight by four police officers, who demanded the flyers be removed and then reported the student to UCF’s Student Conduct department.

Anti-Jewish discrimination is rife not only in UCF’s Police Department but in UCF’s administration as a whole. Despite multiple instances of students calling for racial and ethnic violence against Jewish people, antisemitic speech degrading Jews and Israelis on the basis of their identities, and even multiple death threats directed against Jewish students, UCF’s internal conduct and diversity departments have failed to take any action at all.

Despite UCF wholly adopting the IHRA Antisemitism definition, and their own Code of Conduct prohibiting acts of hatred against Jews, UCF’s administration has outright declined to intervene in reported incidents of antisemitic harassment. “The University’s review of the concerns submitted… has not resulted in organizational disciplinary action against the student organizations at this time,” wrote Dr. Nancy Myers, director of the Office of Institutional Equity and a high-ranking member of UCF’s administration.

Some of the complaints submitted to UCF include:

  • A statement from UCF’s Young Democratic Socialists of America on October 7th that read, “DSA is steadfast in expressing our solidarity with Palestine. Today’s events are a direct result of Israel’s apartheid regime… End the violence. End the Occupation. Free Palestine.”
  • A poster displayed by UCF’s Palestinian Student Association on October 13th that read “Resistance is not terrorism; it is the only path to freedom.”
  • An event held by the Muslim Student Association on October 16, 2023 that described the Hamas murderers as “martyrs” and referred to the ongoing conflict in the Gaza strip as “resistance of occupation.”
  • Statements made during a pro-Palestinian campus hate march such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a call for the mass murder of Jews, from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea, and “In spirit and blood, we redeemed al-Aqsa” (in Arabic).

According to UCF’s administration, despite each of these incidents clearly violating the UCF Code of Conduct, nobody was or will be penalized for perpetuating Jew hatred on campus.

UCF’s culture of antisemitism, and the protection afforded to antisemites at UCF, culminated in an incident on January 23rd, in which UCF student Seif Asi approached a group of Jewish students and told them he would return to slaughter every single one of them. He was arrested, but charges were later dropped by the State of Florida, which cited the “conditionality” of the threat – Seif Asi gave his Jewish victims the opportunity to leave before he returned to slaughter them – as one of its reasons for not prosecuting him.

Multiple factors can explain UCF’s apparent institutional antisemitism. One of them could be UCF’s close ties to institutionally antisemitic countries: records show that UCF’s student exchange program has relationships with the Embassies of Qatar; Oman; Kuwait; and Libya, all of which have long histories of state-sponsored antisemitic violence. Investigations at other American universities have demonstrated a connection between antisemitism on university campuses and relationships between universities and antisemitic countries. An additional factor may be the close relationship that UCF’s DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) department has with the rest of the administration. Research has shown that DEI departments generally hold antisemitic views, and UCF’s DEI department may be no exception.

There is a strong cadre of Jews and Zionists who stand up against hatred, but we cannot do it alone. We ask that you share our story. We call on UCF donors and alumni who are disturbed by UCF’s institutionalized antisemitism to contact the university to express your displeasure at the situation. And we ask that the State of Florida intervene. We appreciate the DeSantis administration’s stated support for the Jewish community, but talk is cheap. UCF must be investigated for its antisemitic rot, charges must be reintroduced against the violent and racist hate criminal Seif Asi, and further discrimination against UCF’s Jews must be prevented – or else none of us will be safe.

About the Author
Milo Gilad is an Israeli-American college senior at the University of Central Florida, America's largest university by enrollment. In addition to studying Computer Science, he documents UCF's widespread and pervasive antisemitism, ranging from student groups legitimizing violence against Jewish people to administrators who enable antisemitism.
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