Transfer portal is a term that has become common knowledge for anyone who follows college athletics. The transfer portal allows division one student-athletes to declare their transfer desire in an online database. The athletes inform their current school that they wish to transfer. They then have two business days for the school to enter their name into the database. The athletes can be recruited by another school, but must still meet certain criteria. They also need to be academically qualified at the new school to compete. It has made it easier to transfer student-athletes without losing their eligibility.
The portal, while it has created some confusion with the bowl game personnel, and in some cases, future planning by coaches, does, for better or worse, give the players more freedom.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis decided to take a similar step for totally different reasons. DeSantis released a set of new guidelines yesterday that would make it easier for Jewish Students to Transfer to Florida State Colleges, hopefully avoiding antisemitic rhetoric and attacks.
DeSantis has announced several measures to help Jewish students who wish to leave their university. These include waiving the credit hours requirements for transfer applications and waiving the application window for transfers.
DeSantis stated in his press release:
It is understandable why many Jewish students look to Florida as an alternative. We have taken measures during my tenure as governor to protect our Jewish communities in the K-20 system. With this announcement, I want to make it clear again that Jewish students can live and study in Florida, where they will not be persecuted for their faith.
DeSantis is right to be proactive in providing this support. A recent survey of almost 2,000 Jewish students at 51 U.S. colleges with significant Jewish populations revealed that five Florida schools — Florida State University, University of Central Florida University of Florida Atlantic University, and the University of Miami – are among the least hostile environments for antisemitism.
DeSantis stated in the press release that he worked with State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, Jr. and Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. on the guidelines. DeSantis also encouraged universities to use their existing authority to give out-of-state tuition waivers to students who might have financial difficulties when transferring.
DeSantis said, “It’s understandable that Jewish students would look for alternative options and Florida is one of them.”
DeSantis, as governor of Florida (the state with the third largest Jewish population), has increased Florida’s School Choice Program, increased security funds for Jewish institutions and nonprofits, and signed hate crimes legislation that would make publically displaying a Swastika an offense. DeSantis signed a 2020 law requiring public school teachers to certify they are teaching about the Holocaust.
State University System of Florida Board of Governors issued their emergency order on Jan. 9, following DeSantis’s Executive Order. The document states that the increase in antisemitism in the United States is the cause of this emergency order.
Since the start of the school year 2023-2024, 73 percent (of the Jewish college students) have either experienced or seen some form of antisemitism.
Florida universities can require prospective transfer students to provide documents to prove their fears are “well-founded”. These include statements from the student, witness statements, recordings or photos, official records of complaints made to the college, the university, or law enforcement as well as any other “relevant information or materials germane to the applicant’s claim.”
Some will view this as a cynical PR stunt. It will, however, help some Jewish students to avoid harassment and persecution. If the initiative can change the lives of these students and accomplish this alone, then it is a decent, good, and relevant thing.
In today’s political environment, cynicism is necessary for self-defense. It’s essential for discretion and sanity. There are situations where an attempt to be decent in a specific situation cannot be ignored.
It is a positive thing regardless of your political preference or affiliation.