Florida A&M University students filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida on Sept. 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
Grant & Eisenhofer and civil rights attorney Joshua Dubin filed the class action complaint. The plaintiffs are six undergraduate and graduate FAMU students listed in the lawsuit as Britney Denton, Nyabi Stevens, Deidrick Dansby, Fayerachel Peterson, Alexander Harris, and John Doe.
The plaintiffs accused the state of discrimination toward Historically Black Colleges & Universities in their funding, arguing that white schools in Florida receive more funding than HBCUs.
The lawsuit also argued about a $1.3 billion difference in the state’s funding to white institutions and HBCUs. They even mentioned a $13 million budget for FAMU and FSU’s joint Engineering program, the “Joint College,” since 1987. The budget was allegedly stripped from FAMU and transferred to FSU’s authority—stating FSU has more significant influence over the Joint College.
“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,” the lawsuit read.
One of the plaintiffs is Britney Denton, a first-year doctoral student at FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies. She claimed students at HBCUs deserve the same resources as predominantly white institutions like Florida State University, which is about two miles from FAMU.
“Our school has always made a little go a long way, but we shouldn’t have to,” Denton stated. “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.”
The lawsuit alleged that inequality in funding caused by the state has contributed to the trouble of completing on-campus projects. They brought up FAMU’s $111 million in facilities debt in 2020.
More recently, around August 2022, FAMU had to close its Palmetto Phase III dorms due to pest and flooding issues, causing the school to relocate hundreds of FAMU students to temporary housing locations, like motels.
The school’s president Dr. Larry Robinson dealt with a lot of backlash and complaints from incoming students and families (and the school’s football players) about housing, financial aid, and other issues. The state could assist in those issues since FAMU’s more “dependent on state funding than” white schools.
“While Florida works to provide a quality education at traditionally white institutions, its treatment of HBCU’shas hardly evolved from the middle of the 20th century,” Dubin’s co-counsel, Barbara Hart, said.
The complaint also mentioned how the state awarded UF $785 million and FAMU only $110 million.