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The University of Florida has issued suspensions of up to four years for several pro-Palestinian student protesters who were arrested during campus demonstrations in April, WUFT reported.

The decisions—made by the new dean of students, Chris Summerlin—defied the recommendations of the university-commissioned body that heard student testimonies and watched relevant police videos before suggesting lighter consequences.   

But Summerlin had final say. Each student who has been suspended will need to reapply for admission to the university after the term of their punishment ends and gain acceptance before they may finish their degree. The only more severe punishment would have been expulsion, according to WUFT.

The students involved said they have submitted appeals to overturn their punishments. They have also turned down deferred prosecution agreements from the Alachua County Office of the State Attorney, which would drop the charges from their records if they plead guilty and commit no crimes in the coming year.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

University of Texas officials took a similar approach to Alachua County law enforcement, although they generally issued shorter suspensions, hovering around two years. 

Officials sent letters to some students facing disciplinary proceedings offering to lift their suspensions if they agreed to accept responsibility, The Austin American-Statesman reported. 

“At this juncture, suspension appears to be the appropriate consequence for these serious infractions,” the letter said. “However, recognizing our commitment to educational growth, we want to offer you an alternative path to avoid suspension by proving that you have learned from this experience.”

To formally receive the deferred suspension, students would be required to take a test on the university’s speech, expression and assembly rules, which were changed after the protests, seemingly to codify the university’s response, according to the Statesman.

Students would also have to promise in writing to follow all UT and UT system rules going forward, with the understanding that any violations would lead to suspension. Students were given less than a week to decide whether to accept or appeal.

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