Suspended University of South Florida student Joseph Charry, center, and expelled student Victoria Hinckley, right, speak during a news conference near the campus of USF at the intersection of 50th Street and Fowler Avenue on June 28 in Tampa. Charry and Hinckley both lost their appeal and remain suspended and expelled after a pro-Palestinian protest at USF. About a dozen supporters were present while addressing the media. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Victoria Hinckley said she was an assignment away from graduation. Joseph Charry said he may now face visa struggles.

The two organizers who participated in April protests at the University of South Florida were not arrested. But they are being accused of breaking university policies and face suspension and expulsion.

They’re among a handful of students at the University of South Florida who are continuing to oppose the university’s response to pro-Palestinian protests on campus this spring.

Of the 13 people arrested at protests at USF, four have seen misdemeanor charges diverted into community service. Two have seen felony charges dropped to misdemeanors. One of the five students arrested was taken to jail shortly before a court appearance last week after additional charges were added based on video evidence, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

While all five students who were arrested during protests will face academic disciplinary hearings, others, including Hinckley and Charry, are still facing punishment.

Hinckley, a member of Students for a Democratic Society, said she was one assignment away from finishing her degree, but was expelled.

Charry, who would have started his third year at USF as a sociology major, has been suspended until May 2025. Charry, who is from Colombia, said his student visa status hangs in the balance. He said his visa is not set to expire immediately, but he has not received any guidance from USF.

The students said the university tried to blame them for the escalation of the second day of protests that resulted in police tear-gassing protesters. USF spokesperson Althea Johnson said the school could not provide additional information about individual students’ cases due to student privacy laws, but said in an email that“there are consequences for violating the law or university policies. USF has been clear that violence, threats, harassment and disruptions will not be tolerated.”

Johnson also said the university “values free speech and protecting the constitutional right for individuals and groups on campus to gather and express themselves.”

Both students tried to appeal their cases, but their appeals were denied.

In a previous interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Charry called the process a “kangaroo court,” saying he felt like decisions had already been made.

“They don’t care if they deport a student,” he said. “They’re not invested in the welfare of students. And it’s crazy that the one starting all these code of conduct charges is the dean of students, who we are supposed to talk to, and who’s supposed to manage things with us.”

Charry said he felt as though the administrators had a preconceived notion of protesters trying to start trouble.

“I like USF, and that’s why, going to all these protests, I’m active in the community,” he said. “Because I like it. Because I like the people here, the professors here, the community, the students. USF administration seems very intent on denying me the education.”

Hinckley, a Tampa native, said she too felt devastated. She said she enjoyed her time at USF and the people she met.

“I found what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “And I was really excited to be graduating and to be done with school and to move on to the next part of my life, which is going to consist of community organizing and serving the community and using what I’ve learned at college in helping hold up that effort of serving a community. USF has shown that they don’t want to recognize that.”

The university has taken action against at least one student organization affiliated with pro-Palestine rallies.

In early June, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society was suspended from campus for reasons pre-dating the protest. The university determined the group was responsible for two counts of disruptive conduct and a failure to comply when, a week prior to the protests, they had marched to the Dean for Students’ office, chanting to demand a meeting. The university said they had also blocked a staircase in the process and continued chanting on their way down when the dean told them they must stop.

At the University of Florida, seven students arrested during protests have been trespassed from campus for three years. At the University of North Florida, disciplinary hearings are under way for nine students and the university’s Students for a Democratic Society chapter. The University of Central Florida’s Board of Trustees recently passed a policy curtailing hours that protests are allowed and that they cannot continue more than five days in a row.

Higher education reporter for The Tampa Bay Times in partnership with Open Campus.