A group of students at Florida A&M University (FAMU) is suing the state of Florida for prioritizing its largest university with more funding than it gives to the HBCU, reports NBC News.
Per the complaint, six Florida A&M students who filed the class-action lawsuit in September 2022 claim that the University of Florida receives more funds per student from the state than A&M.
According to a study conducted by Forbes, the University of Florida received $2,600 more per student than FAMU in 2020. The HBCU depends more on state funding than its PWI counterpart. Additionally, from 1987 to 2020, the disproportionate funding amounted to $1.3 billion, while the two universities are the state’s only two public land-grant colleges.
The suit also says that the “Sunshine State” is in violation of several laws including Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, “which prohibits racial discrimination in federally funded programs.” The plaintiffs are demanding that the state support HBCUs with more equity in funding.
In addition to financial disparities, the suit also alleges that the state permitted Florida State University to replicate 40 of FAMU programs which makes it harder for FAMU to recruit prospective students.
On Thursday, June 1, 2023, oral arguments were heard by Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida, which was the first step to gauge if the class-action lawsuit that was filed in September could proceed. In his decision, he dismissed the state’s request to dismiss the suit but did ask for revisions from the plaintiff’s legal team.
Josh Dubin, a civil rights attorney who is representing the plaintiffs, said that the funding disparities between the two schools is a blatant case of institutional racism.
“There’s the failure to fund the school in proportion to traditionally white students and allow FAMU to essentially establish its own identity,” Dubin said. He also noted that because of the lack of funding FAMU’s facilities have not been well-kept.
“We’re talking about segregating African American students from white students,” Dubin continued. “This obviously has racism at its core.”
Britney Denton, a first-year doctoral student at FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies and is one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said she believes that the state is obligated to support the institution.
“Our school has always made a little go a long way, but we shouldn’t have to. 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,” said Denton. “We’re proud to be here, and we want Florida to be proud to support us, and other HBCUs, equally.