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University of Florida bans from campus teaching assistant accused of vandalizing pro-Israel flag

Simon Lowry, 24, of Gainesville, Florida, is seen in this official trespass notice Nov. 7, 2023, from the University of Florida, which banned him from campus for three years. The school announced this week that he was being charged with two misdemeanors accusing him of vandalizing a pro-Israel flag at Alpha Epsilon Pi, a predominately Jewish fraternity on campus.
University of Florida Police Department
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Fresh Take Florida
Simon Lowry, 24, of Gainesville, Florida, is seen in this official trespass notice Nov. 7, 2023, from the University of Florida, which banned him from campus for three years. The school announced this week that he was being charged with two misdemeanors accusing him of vandalizing a pro-Israel flag at Alpha Epsilon Pi, a predominately Jewish fraternity on campus.

He faces two misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief involving the incident at Alpha Epsilon Pi.

The University of Florida banned a graduate student who is a teaching assistant from campus for three years after campus police accused him of vandalizing a pro-Israel sign by a predominantly Jewish fraternity.

Simon Nicholas Lowry, 24, of Gainesville is facing two misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief involving the incident at Alpha Epsilon Pi, according to a sworn complaint filed by university police in Alachua County Circuit Court. Police said this week that Lowry admitted vandalizing the sign last month after they saw him on surveillance cameras they had placed in the area.

In an interview Friday, Lowry declined to discuss the charges against him “at this moment.” He said he planned to provide a written statement next week that would explain his actions. He also said has been reading news reports about the criminal case against him.

Lowry was a graduate teaching assistant in UF’s Department of Astronomy and a member of UF’s Graduate Assistant Union. Two of the organization’s members were arrested in March after they were accused of tearing down an anti-abortion sign by a group demonstrating on campus.

The fraternity’s flag, which said “AEPi stands with Israel,” was vandalized last month. The incident was among cases around the U.S. of anti-Semitic or anti-Israel actions protesting Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

“This student’s actions were deliberate and unacceptable and will not be tolerated at the University of Florida,” campus Police Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick said in a statement. “Free speech is protected. Vandalism is not. And we will do our very best to ensure that the University of Florida is a welcoming place for all.”

The police department said that, in addition to the criminal misdemeanor charges, Lowry’s case was being referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. It said he was banned from campus for three years unless he successfully appealed the trespass order.

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at vivienneserret@ufl.edu.