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Florida students rally to demand Tuition Equity

By Conor Munro

Gainesville, FL – On April 21, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapters from around the state of Florida gathered for an emergency rally at the State Capitol in Tallahassee. The event was organized in response to Senator Joe Negron’s blocking in the Appropriations Committee of SB1400, the bill that would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Florida universities. A small group of Republicans in the Senate is desperately attempting to prevent tuition equity legislation from being voted on, despite overwhelming support from immigrant communities, student activists and Florida’s universities. The majority of Florida voters support the bill and it has already passed comfortably in the house.

Over 20 students took part in the sit-in at Senate President Don Gaetz’s office and demanded to meet with him. Security guards prevented the protesters from entering the president’s office but students rallied outside instead, chanting, “What do we want? Tuition Equity! When do we want it? Now!” After 15 minutes Sen. Gaetz bowed to their pressure and met with a delegation from the group. In the meeting students asked Gaetz to guarantee that if the bill is brought up from the floor, that he would give it a fair chance to pass.

Chrisley Carpio of University of Florida SDS was part of the delegation. After the meeting she said, “Senator Gaetz told us that he would do everything in his power to prevent tuition equity from passing. What kind of sham democracy do we have in this state where a few racist politicians can obstruct the will of the people?”

The protest continued throughout the day and more students joined the sit-in. Zachary Schultz from Florida State University SDS told Fight Back! that students plan continue protesting until the end of the legislative session on May 2. He said, “There is still a chance for tuition equity to pass. We need to do everything we can to hold these politicians’ feet to fire.”

There are two ways that tuition equity can pass without going through Senator Negron’s Appropriations Committee. It can be attached to another bill or brought up from the floor by a two-thirds majority vote. In addition to the ongoing demonstration in the capitol, Students for a Democratic Society plans to hold call-ins targeting key senators as part of their national Education for All campaign. With less than 10 days remaining in the legislative session, the fight is on for tuition equity and SDS is leading the charge.

#GainesvilleFL #StudentMovement #StudentsForADemocraticSociety #SDS #TuitionEquity #SenatorJoeNegron #SenatorDonGaetz