No HAMAS Act Aims to Revoke Federal Student Aid for Convicted Protesters

Nine Republican senators introduce the No HAMAS Act, proposing to revoke federal student aid for students convicted of trespassing, rioting, or damaging property during protests. The legislation comes amid a wave of protests on college campuses, marked by incidents of violence, property damage, and antisemitic rhetoric.

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Bijay Laxmi
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No HAMAS Act Aims to Revoke Federal Student Aid for Convicted Protesters

No HAMAS Act Aims to Revoke Federal Student Aid for Convicted Protesters

A group of nine Republican senators, led by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), has introduced the proposal, which aims to revoke federal student financial assistance for students convicted of trespassing, rioting, or damaging property while protesting at higher education institutions. The acronym "No HAMAS" stands for "No Higher education Assistance for Mobs of Antisemitic and terrorist Sympathizing Students."

Why this matters: This federal aid legislation has significant implications for the balance between free speech and law enforcement on college campuses, and could set a precedent for how universities and governments respond to protests and demonstrations. Moreover, it raises questions about the role of federal funding in shaping student behavior and the limits of academic freedom.

The proposal comes amid a wave of protests on college campuses across the United States, with at least 88 campuses impacted, according to Campus Safety Magazine. The protests have been marked by incidents of violence, property damage, and antisemitic rhetoric, with some non-students also participating.

Sen. Tillis stated, "Mobs of pro-Hamas students have flagrantly violated the law, destroyed campus property, and resorted to violence against fellow students and law enforcement. Hardworking taxpayers shouldn't have to keep paying for the college tuition of convicted lawbreakers." U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) added, "In Joe Biden's America, hardworking taxpayers are forced to aid Hamas-sympathizing students who blatantly violate the law by trespassing and destroying campus property."

The No HAMAS Act would revoke eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work assistance for convicted students. Other Republican senators co-sponsoring the bill include Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Steve Daines of Montana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was questioned by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) about whether the Biden administration's program to shift repayment of college loans from students to taxpayers should include taxpayers paying off loans for students who are antisemitic and disrupt Jewish students' education. Cardona did not provide a direct answer.

Separate legislation filed by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) would prevent convicted protesters from having their federal student loans forgiven, cancelled, waived, or modified. The No HAMAS Act and related proposals come as pro-Palestine protests continue on college campuses, with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill bracing for potential disruptions at its commencement ceremony on May 10, 2024.