Recently proposed legislation targeting diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts on Florida’s public college campuses poses a threat to collegiate Black Greek Letter organizations.

House Bill 999, 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.”

According to Shevrin Jones, state senator of Florida District 34, this bill will not only affect Greek organizations but groups such as Florida State’s Black Student Union, the University of South Florida’s Asian Students in America, or Spectrum, an LGBTQ rights group at Florida A&M. 

Last week, members of Florida A&M’s Black fraternities and sororities appeared at a state legislature meeting to appeal to senators about the detriment of the bill.

Robert Tucker was one of several FAMU students present at the meeting to oppose the bill.  “If you decide to pass this bill, not only will it affect HBCUs or other state universities in a negative way, in the programs that are implemented, but present and future generations to come. Please do not create a bill that affects over 100 years of progression for minorities just because of personal bias,” Tucker told the lawmakers from a podium.

FAMU student at state legislature meeting to oppose HB 999 / Credit: The Famuan

According to Rep. Alex Andrade of Pensacola, Black-Greek-lettered organizations will not be affected, but many still have questions.

Jacque Slater, a professor at Edward Waters University and a member of a Black Greek organization told First Coast News that the passing of House Bill 999 could hurt diversity equity, and inclusion groups even if the Divine 9 Greek life isn’t banned from public universities.

Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican from Vero Beach introduced an amendment to protect Black fraternities and sororities, removing language that could have inflicted great harm to these organizations.

However, the amendment was rejected and in a 12-5 party-line vote, Republican lawmakers on the House Post Secondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee passed House Bill 999 on March 13. After passing in the House, the Senate must now pass its version of the bill, Senate Bill 266, before it goes to the governor.

State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, a Gainesville Democrat, told that HB 999’s language is vague about how it would impact Black Greek-lettered organizations. “I just don’t know to what depth this is going to cut into the activities that they normally have on campus,” Hinson, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha said, adding that she’s also concerned about “a chilling effect” that the measure could have on faculty advisors.

According to Florida senator, Shevrin Jones, if HB 999 were to become law, it would chill academic freedom.

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. 

This problematic bill would also allow the Florida Board of Governors — a 17-member body largely appointed by the governor that oversees all of the public universities in the state — to review and rescind the tenure of professors who do not comply with this mandate.

In addition, the bill bans state schools from “using diversity, equity, and inclusion statements, Critical Race Theory (CRT) rhetoric, or other forms of political identity filters as part of the hiring process, including as part of applications for employment, promotion and tenure, conditions of employment, or reviewing qualifications for employment.”

HB 999 can be viewed as part of Florida Republicans’ and Gov. DeSantis’ systematic attack on public education. Last year, DeSantis signed the ‘Stop Woke Act,’ which stops certain topics related to oppression from being discussed on college campuses. A federal judge blocked its enforcement in November, and on Thursday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied DeSantis’ right to begin enforcing the law.