A Pro-Palestinian Protest at Valencia College Raises Questions


April 10, 2024






(ORLANDO, Fla) – Students and faculty of Valencia College say that pro-Palestinian voices are being suppressed on campus. 

The allegations come as a protest was held in front of Valencia College on Thursday by grassroots activist group Central Florida Queers for Palestine (CFLQ4P) in support of a ceasefire to end Israeli strikes on Gaza following the October 7, 2023 attacks in Israel by Hamas that killed approximately 1,200 people.

About 20 demonstrators gathered in front of  a campus entrance at the intersection of Valencia College Lane and North Ekonlockhatchee Trail. Among the demonstrators were students and faculty of Valencia College who said that those in positions of authority at the college were attempting to quell or censor pro-Palestinian voices and messages. 

While cars honked and some drivers heckled the protesters, Valencia College security officers kept a watchful eye on the protest from across the street behind the gates of the campus entrance. However, some of the demonstrators felt that the presence of the campus safety officers was not just about the safety of those in attendance.

One demonstrator, who is also a Valencia College student, spoke on condition of anonymity about their experiences and what they had witnessed on campus. 

The student reported that a bulletin board had been posted on campus with a prompt and sticky notes asking passers-by to leave messages about their goals for the upcoming Fall 2023 semester. The student went on to say that a pro-Palestinian message had been posted on a sticky note on the board. After the sticky note was posted, the student said, “Someone kept tearing down the Free Palestine stickies.” The student said the messages kept reappearing and being removed, until at one point, “Free Palestine appeared on the actual board itself. And then they papered over it but it appeared again.” The student also reported that security cameras had been installed near the bulletin board following the incident.

A faculty member participating in the demonstration said they also had negative interactions with Valencia College security that they felt could have been a direct result of their participation in the protest. They, too, spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for retaliation from their employer. 

The faculty member reported that as they were walking across the street from the campus entrance to join the protest, Valencia College security officers told them that they could not park their vehicle on campus while they were at the protest and that their vehicle would be towed. When the faculty member returned to their vehicle, they said there were two or three Valencia College security officers that were parked and observing them and that they felt uncomfortable returning to their vehicle parked in a campus parking lot. The faculty member said that they have a valid campus parking permit. 

These reported incidents follow the recent passing of state legislation around free speech and diversity, equity, and inclusion policies at Florida public higher-education institutions. In May 2023, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 266, also known as the “Stop WOKE Act,” into law. The bill bans Florida public colleges and universities from spending state or federal money to promote, support or maintain programs or campus activities that “advocate for” diversity, equity and inclusion. Additionally, following the Hamas attack of October 7,  Governor DeSantis ordered public colleges and universities in the state to ban the student advocacy group Students for Justice in Palestine from campuses. 

A statement on Valencia College’s free speech policy is available on their website and partially reads, “The College reserves the right to establish and enforce reasonable, viewpoint-neutral restrictions on the time, place and manner of expressive activities in outdoor common areas to achieve these goals. The content of expressive activities will not be considered in regulating speech in outdoor areas, except to the extent permitted by law.” 

Attempts were made to reach Valencia College for further comment, but voicemails and an email to the public relations department were not immediately returned. 

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