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Six FAMU students have filed a class-action lawsuit against Florida and education officials, accusing the state of ongoing racial discrimination that leaves the school dependent on the state but underfunded.
The complaint alleges that the state has cut FAMU by more than $1.3 billion since 1987. They argue that the state university system maintains a racially segregated college structure, thereby penalizing historically black colleges and universities (HBCUS).
“Throughout its history and to the present day, Florida has intentionally engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination, primarily through differential funding, that has prevented HBCUS, including FAMU, from achieving par with their traditionally white counterparts,” it said it The complaint.
The law firm of Grant & Eisenhofer and civil rights attorney Joshua Dublin represents the students in the process.
In a statement, Dubin said FAMU “is still catching up in the state of Florida, which we believe has acted with a startling lack of good faith, despite decades of federal government guidelines that all students in the state receive equal educational opportunities.” This willful indifference to HBCUs is not unique to Florida, but at FAMU we join the fight to ensure education is fair for all.”
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 actual agency in 2015, changing a relationship that had existed since 1987.
A 2015 feasibility study found that FSU exerted a greater influence over the academic activities of the joint school.
“The Joint College serves as an example of how FAMU is being forced to operate in a different role from geographically adjacent TWIs – a role in which HBCUs like FAMU are deprived and deprived of resources and programs for the ultimate benefit of TWIs,” reads it in suit .
The complaint also alleges that major construction projects are taking significantly longer to reach final funding at FAMU compared to other government schools. The University of Florida received $14,984 per student in the 2019 budget, compared to $11,450 received by FAMU.
“Our school has always progressed a little bit, but we shouldn’t have to,” said the first-year PhD 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 the FSU next door or any other Florida state school. We are proud to be here and we want Florida to be proud to support us and other HBCUs alike.”
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