By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
A class-action lawsuit accusing the state of Florida of discriminating against a historically Black university while favoring its predominantly white counterpart has been allowed to proceed by Judge Robert L. Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida.
The lawsuit, filed in September, marks the first court test in this case, and although the judge dismissed the state’s request to dismiss the suit, he did request revisions.
Six Florida A&M University (FAMU) students filed the lawsuit, alleging that the University of Florida receives a higher state appropriation per student than FAMU.
For 33 years, from 1987 to 2020, this discrepancy amounted to approximately $1.3 billion, according to the complaint. Despite both universities being the only public land-grant colleges in the state, FAMU claims that it has been unfairly disadvantaged.
According to a 2022 study by Forbes, FAMU received $2,600 less in funding per student in 2020 than the University of Florida, which supports FAMU’s claim.
Additionally, Forbes highlighted that FAMU relies more heavily on state funding than its white counterpart.
Last year, The New York Times reported on the challenges faced by FAMU’s football players, including inadequate practice equipment and understaffed support for students.
One of the accusations made in the lawsuit is that the state allows Florida State University, also located in Tallahassee, to duplicate over 40 programs offered by FAMU.
This duplication makes it difficult for FAMU to attract prospective students interested in their fields of study.
Civil rights attorney Josh Dubin, representing the plaintiffs, emphasized the failure to provide FAMU with equitable funding in proportion to traditionally white institutions.
He argued that this lack of support hampers FAMU’s ability to establish its identity and maintain its facilities adequately.
The plaintiffs demand that the state commit to equity in its support of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and seek injunctive relief under various laws, including Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in federally funded programs.
While not dismissing the case, Judge Hinkle has requested attorneys to amend the lawsuit for clarity.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are the state of Florida, the board of governors and chancellor of the State University System Ray Rodrigues, the State Board of Education and its commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., and Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
Spokespeople for the Board of Governors and the State Board of Education have declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.
Historically Black colleges and universities were established to provide Black students with opportunities for higher education and upward mobility during segregation.
However, these institutions have faced numerous challenges, including decades of underfunding, and housing issues, contributing to their current crises and resource limitations.