University of South Florida


A message about today's events on campus

Dear USF community,

The safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and all members of the university community is our highest priority.

We value free speech and protecting the constitutional right for individuals and groups on campus to gather and express themselves. This includes protests and demonstrations that we have experienced many times on our campuses without incident. Free expression is an expected and important part of the public discourse of a university, and we’re proud to say it is among the core values that define our institution. However, these activities have to remain peaceful and cannot cross a line that violates the law or USF policies. To be clear, we will not tolerate violent, disruptive or aggressive acts by protestors.

Unfortunately, as you have likely seen, a protest on our Tampa campus escalated to an unsafe level that required law enforcement to intervene. The decision to intervene was not taken lightly and was based on the following facts. Beginning this morning, approximately 75-100 protestors arrived, including some students and some individuals who are not affiliated with the university. Throughout the day, USF staff members and university police remained in regular communication with protestors about the expectations for maintaining a peaceful event, including that it would need to conclude by the close of business.

However, as the day progressed, police and university staff observed participants expressing their intent to refuse to leave the site and to occupy the space through the weekend, which includes commencement. Police and university staff also observed protesters bringing in wooden shields, umbrellas, and tents. The protesters then locked arms, raised the shields and umbrellas, and communicated their intent to refuse to leave. USF Police determined that these actions were a dangerous escalation and that the protest was no longer peaceful.

USF Police made multiple attempts to inform participants that the protest must cease and that participants needed to disperse. These warnings had no effect. When participants continued to refuse to comply, law enforcement dispersed the protestors and took numerous individuals into custody in the process. It is of great concern that one of the individuals taken into custody was found to be carrying a concealed firearm. We are deeply grateful to the USF Police Department, our regional law enforcement partners, and the Student Success team for their unwavering dedication and commitment to prioritizing the safety of our community.

The university has a responsibility to maintain a safe environment on campus, including enforcing violations of Florida law and USF policies, especially after repeated warnings. Should there be additional protests on campus this week, we expect everyone to act in a peaceful manner and in a way that allows our community to prepare for final exams and commencement without disruption.

As we always have in challenging times, it’s critical that we strive to uphold our university’s values and keep our focus on how we carry out our institutional mission. We urge everyone to do their part to ensure that USF continues to be a safe and peaceful place where we treat each other with respect and empathy, even when we disagree.


Rhea F. Law

Will Weatherford
Chair, USF Board of Trustees

For students

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