If one were to tell you that the Ron DeSantis-run state of Florida was facing a class-action lawsuit alleging that it treats HBCU funding like it’s a Black girl at Sesame Place, would you really be surprised?
Well, if you are surprised, you might want to sit yourself down and strap yourself into the passenger seat of your duh-mobile, because it turns out six students at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Sunshine State.
The Washington Post reports that the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida alleges that the state pours more money into traditionally white institutions such as Florida State University, also in Tallahassee, and allows schools to duplicate FAMU’s academic programs.
“There is a vast difference between the two universities in the city of Tallahassee,” said Britney Denton, a doctoral student at FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and a plaintiff in the case reports WP. “If you go to the north side, you’ll see the magnificent sports facilities and amazing housing. But when you get to the south side where the HBCU is, it’s a different world because we aren’t given the same resources.”
Denton said she and her classmates denounce the narrative that FAMU is to blame for its own funding woes because Florida is out here making it rain on PWIs while HBCUs are in the streets cracking the lids on fire hydrants. (Mostly my words, not hers.)
“We could see the bigger picture,” Denton said. “The university needs resources from the state and local government, which haven’t provided enough support.”
So, the lawsuit—which actually names the Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida as the defendant—is requesting a judge appoint a mediator to recommend ways Florida might reassess how it decides which public colleges get funded. It also demands the state to fund all of its public universities, not just the ones full of boys who wear polos with unironed popped collars and white girls who call themselves “light-skinned” in their Tik Tok videos. (Again, I’m obviously not quoting the suit verbatim here.)
The Washington Post points out that Florida has four historically Black campuses; the other three are private. The state has increased its funding for the schools in recent years, providing more than $123 million in the 2020-2021 budget, up $21.3 million from the previous year and the lawsuit alleges that “there has been a deliberate effort by the state to undermine FAMU’s competitiveness by letting other public colleges duplicate its academic programs, luring away prospective students.”
Decades of disparate state funding have prevented FAMU from achieving parity with its traditionally White counterparts, according to the suit. It claims the University of Florida received a larger state appropriation per student than FAMU from 1987 to 2020, amounting to a shortfall of roughly $1.3 billion.
Attorneys for the students say the disparity is striking because the two schools share the distinction of being Florida’s only public land-grant universities. States are obligated to match federal dollars for all land-grant universities, but the historically Black campuses are frequently shortchanged.
It’s worth noting that Florida is one of the fiercest tantrum-throwers over critical race theory and this is a picture-perfect example of what the academic study seeks to explore. Obviously, we’re rooting for the success of this lawsuit and others like it, but even if it doesn’t succeed, it’s inspiring to see HBCU students stand up against an educational system that treats Black colleges like afterthoughts. It’s been going on far too long.