Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
Six FAMU students have filed a class-action lawsuit against Florida and education officials, accusing the state of continued racial discrimination that leaves the school dependent on the state, yet underfunded.
The complaint alleges the state shortchanged FAMU by more than $1.3 billion since 1987. They argue the State University System maintains a racially segregated higher-ed structure, placing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUS) at a disadvantage.
“Throughout its history and up to the present day, Florida has purposefully engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination, principally through disparate funding, that has prevented HBCUS, including FAMU, from achieving parity with their traditionally White institution counterparts,” according to the complaint.
The law firm Grant & Eisenhofer and civil rights attorney Joshua Dubin are representing the students in the lawsuit.
In a statement, Dubin said FAMU is “still playing catch-up in the state of Florida, which we feel has acted with an astonishing lack of good faith, despite decades of directives from the federal government that all students in the state receive equal educational opportunities. This deliberate indifference toward HBCUs is not unique to Florida, but FAMU is where we’re joining the fight to ensure the education is fair for everyone.”
The complaint cites declining enrollment at FAMU compared to FSU in the Joint College of Engineering. The joint school’s $13 million budget was also transferred from FAMU to FSU’s effective authority in 2015, changing a relationship that had existed since 1987.
A 2015 feasibility study found that FSU exerted greater influence over the joint school’s academic pursuits.
“The Joint College serves as an example of how FAMU is forced to operate in a different role than geographically proximate TWIs — a role where HBCUs like FAMU are stripped and robbed of resources and programs for the eventual benefit of TWIs,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint also asserts that major building projects take significantly longer to reach final funding at FAMU compared to other state schools. The University of Florida received $14,984 per student in the 2019 budget compared to the $11,450 FAMU received.
“Our school has always made a little go a long way, but we shouldn’t have to,” said first-year Doctor of Pharmacy candidate Britney Denton, one of the six students bringing the suit. “There are bright and determined people here who deserve the same level of support and quality of resources as FSU next door or any other state school in Florida. We’re proud to be here, and we want Florida to be proud to support us, and other HBCUs, equally.”
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