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Students testify during hearing on bill that bans diversity, equity and inclusion in colleges

Posted at 7:26 PM, Mar 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-13 19:26:58-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) — Some local college students were not happy to hear the news of the introduction of House Bill 999 that would eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion programs from colleges and universities across the state of Florida.

The bill's wording also said it will ban any major or minor program that involves "…Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, or Intersectionality."

This worries some students, like fourth-year FAMU student Jovan Mickens.

"My purpose here today is to make sure my voice is heard for me and many college students across the state. This is our spring break," Mickens said. "A lot of us students are trying to be on spring break in Panama City Beach or Miami, but we are here in Tallahassee trying to fight for our academic freedom."

Over 150 people with similar concerns to Mickens showed up to testify in front of the Florida House.

It is not only students who oppose the bill, but educators as well.

Andrew Spar with the Florida Education Association said this bill worries some faculty at Florida colleges and universities.

Republican Rep. Alex Andrade sponsored the the bill. He said it is meant to put more coursework relevant to future success into the curriculum of colleges and universities.

"Florida has some of the best universities in the nation. Why would we go after the people who made it that way by going after professors, undermining professors, by telling they can't teach the way they know is best for students," Spar said. "We are going to chase them to other states."

He also said this bill is not meant to limit student's freedom of speech.

"As far as campus activities, the bill is explicit that campus activities that would be at all discussed or considered by this bill are campus activities conducted by administration or professors in their position, roles of power over students on that campus," Andrade said. "Student activities, not included."

But Mickens said this still could harm students and not allow them a designated community within a university.

"I can say that a DE&I programs can ensure that minority groups can have that safe space, like BSU and Women's student Union, programs like that," Mickens said. "We have each other, and that is something that you need being a first-year college student."

Two amendments were filed during the hearing by Democrats, aiming to remove bans on curriculum and granting students groups the uninhibited right to reserve spaces on campus.

Both amendments did not pass.