University of Florida Suspends Arrested Pro-Palestinian Protesters for Up to 4 Years

Vivienne Serret / Gainesville

In secretive hearings, the University of Florida set aside recommendations to lightly punish some of the college students arrested after pro-Palestinian protests on campus and instead kicked them all out of school for three to four years.

The decisions by the new dean of students, Chris Summerlin, overruled what were effectively sentencing recommendations by the juries, known as hearing bodies, who heard testimony and watched police video of the protests and arrests during the disciplinary cases.

The students were among nine people who university police and Florida state troopers arrested April 29 during a demonstration on the Plaza of the Americas on the east side of the University of Florida campus. They were among the first college arrests in Florida, and all remain banned from university property.

In at least two cases, the hearing bodies recommended probation for Keely Nicole Gliwa, 23, of Gainesville — a master’s student who expected to graduate May 2 — and a deferred suspension for Parker Stanely Hovis, 26, of Naples. The university withheld Gliwa’s diploma and suspended both Gliwa and Hovis for three years.

In other cases, the hearing body recommended a one-year suspension for Tess Jaden Segal, 20, of Weston, and Allan Hektor Frasheri, 21, of Largo, but UF suspended Segal for three years and Frasheri for four years.

The university suspended Roseanna Yashoda Bisram, 20, of Ocala for three years, the same duration as the hearing body recommended. Augustino Matthias Pulliam, 20, a freshman theater major from Jacksonville, also was suspended three years. A student at nearby Santa Fe College, Charly Pringle, 21, of Jacksonville, was suspended for three years in her school’s separate disciplinary process.

The seven students said they have submitted appeals to overturn their punishments, which they said were pending.

The suspensions mean that each would need to reapply for admission to UF. The only worse punishment would have been to expel them, which would have prevented them ever from returning.

Meanwhile, all nine people arrested at UF said they have turned down deferred prosecution agreements offered to them by the Alachua County State Attorney’s Office under plea bargains. Under such deals, a defendant would plead no contest or guilty and the charges would effectively be dropped from their records if they committed no further crimes during a period of time, usually 12 months. None of the nine had any prior criminal convictions.

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

Their court cases were expected to unfold over the summer. The state attorney, Brian Kramer, is a Republican facing re-election in November.

Of the nine, Ember Boerboom, 24, of Chesapeake, Virginia, was a former UF student, Pringle was a Santa Fe student and Jinx Rooney, 23 of Valrico, Florida, had no apparent affiliation with the university.

All faced misdemeanor criminal charges of resisting arrest without violence except Frasheri, who prosecutors charged with felony battery on a police officer. Hovis also faces another misdemeanor, a trespass count. Police said at the protest Hovis declined to say whether he would leave, so they arrested him.

Under university disciplinary rules, Summerlin was permitted to reject the recommendations of the hearing bodies, which are typically composed of faculty members. Summerlin, who started his job at UF in April, the same month as the arrests, declined Tuesday through a spokesperson to say why he handed out tougher-than-recommended sanctions in nearly every case.

The outcomes of the disciplinary hearings — which happened during May and June — were described in a news release Tuesday distributed by the students. The privacy of the school’s disciplinary process is protected under federal law, and only the students involved can lawfully disclose what happened behind closed doors. Two of the UF students, including Segal, are Jewish, they said.

“I stand in solidarity with Palestinians not in spite of my Judaism, but because of it,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, newly released law enforcement video appears to capture the moment that one of them was accused of spitting on a police officer in the most serious case.

Prosecutors have accused Frasheri of spitting on the right arm of university police Officer Kristy Sasser as she was helping a state trooper walk away with another protester under arrest. Sasser, who also testified in at least one university disciplinary hearing, said in court papers that Frasheri “walked up to us and spit on me. His spittle landed on my right arm. I disengaged from the escort and arrested Frasheri for battery.”

In video of the arrests obtained from the Florida Highway Patrol under Florida’s public records law, Frasheri is seen fidgeting with a water bottle with a medical-style mask down to his chin, joining the crowd in screaming “shame” at the officers arresting their peers.

As Sasser walked by, the top part of Frasheri’s body appeared to lunge sharply toward her as he held a water bottle. Sasser turned and appeared seconds later behind Frasheri to arrest him. Frasheri is expected at an upcoming court hearing July 24 for an update in his case.

UF President Ben Sasse, during a May press conference, praised police: “What you have done in the face of being spit on, being shouted at with profanities has been amazing,” Sasse said.

The university has declined so far to release other police video showing the arrests, despite a reporter’s request for copies April 30 — 70 days ago — under state law. The school also hasn’t turned over requested copies of communications among its general counsel, Sasse and police departments.