Home Politics FAMU Students Protest Against House Bill 999

FAMU Students Protest Against House Bill 999

Students from Florida A&M University (FAMU) recently held a protest against House Bill 999, alongside students across various Florida universities.

House Bill 999, which was proposed earlier this month, seeks to remove organizations on Florida’s public colleges that “promote, support, or maintain any programs or campus activities that… espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric.”

On Tuesday, students from FAMU, Florida State University, the University of South Florida, and the New College of Florida staged a sit-in at FAMU’s Grand Ballroom while Florida’s Board of Governors met on campus.

Student groups across the state of Florida hold a protest to fight against HB999 as Florida Board of Governors committee meetings are being held at FAMU on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. Credit: The Tallahassee Democrat

The students chanted “stand up, fight back” and “the students united will never be defeated” during the protest against the education-attacking bill.

Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried also attended the protest and gave the student protesters words of encouragement before they made their way to FAMU’s campus.

“They want to silence your voices to prevent you all from being the type of leaders who are educated, who are diverse, and who truly represent all the people,” Fried said.

“This is not just about DEI,” Fried added. “They fundamentally want to destroy our higher education system. That is their mission. This is an assault on our higher education system because they are trying to dumb down our universities and our colleges.”

The bill would prohibit majors and minors with curriculums touching on critical race theory, gender studies, and intersectionality. As a result, it could eliminate entire majors such as African American studies, gender studies, and women’s studies. 

While the meetings proceeded, about 10 students walked into the university’s ballroom and sat in silence with their fists held up high in solidarity

Although board members did not comment on the student protesters’ actions during the meetings, Board of Governors Vice Chair Eric Silagy, who presided over the committee meetings Tuesday, said that their presence was welcomed.

“This is an open meeting, and we welcome anybody to come,” Silagy told the Tallahassee Democrat. “I was happy to have them participate and was happy to have them be so respectful of the process. It’s great that people participate in these meetings since we want the public involved.”

The students continued their protest into Wednesday while the Board of Governors held their full meeting at FAMU.

During the meeting, faculty from multiple Florida colleges expressed their concerns about post-tenure review.

The comments from the faculty came as the board prepared to vote on a new regulation to evaluate contracts of tenured faculty members every five years and to authorize state university boards of trustees to review tenure status.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, faculty members fear the change will undermine their tenure protections and diminish the state’s higher education system.

“If you pass this regulation, Florida’s university system will go from the most competitive in the country to the least, and it will happen overnight,” said United Faculty of Florida President and English faculty member at Florida Atlantic University, Andrew Gothard. “Every high-quality faculty member around the country who’s deciding where they want to go to build their career is not going to come to Florida.”

“Listen to the people, and listen to the experts,” Gothard added.

However, despite the Florida college faculty member’s best efforts, the board went on to approve the measure.

While faculty members opposed the legislature inside, over 100 FAMU students gathered outside across from the H. Manning Efferson Student Union.

Decked out in orange and green FAMU spirit colors, students stood together with signs shouting “Kill the bill,” “Who’s history? Our history” and “Say it loud, I’m Black, and I’m proud.”

Nyabi Stevens, an African American Studies major, told the Tallahassee Democrat that she attended the protest to show her support because “the past, present and future generations are affected by African American history,” and that this history should be “embraced, not erased.”

Student Government Association President Zachary Bell said that it was important for FAMU to lead the charge in fighting against HB 999 and encouraged students to show their support again during FAMU Day at the Capitol on April 13.

According to FAMU President Larry Robinson, the event at the Capitol is designed “to make elected officials more aware of FAMU’s contributions to enhancing the lives of our students and the livelihood of their communities.”