Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

FSU SDS statement on the administration’s silence on HB 999

By staff

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from Florida State University Students for a Democratic Society.

On February 28th, House Bill 999 (HB999) was introduced in the Florida Legislature. Officially titled “Postsecondary Educational Institutions”, this bill would drastically change the state of public education in Florida. HB999 explicitly attacks ethnic studies, multicultural student groups, tenured faculty, and more. Ethnic and multicultural studies were only instituted after hard-fought victories by student organizations in the 60's and 70s'. The bill’s proposals will prevent students who face oppression based on their race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation from learning their own history.

According to the bill, university Presidents and the Board of Trustees will work together to implement and enforce it. Because of this, we recognize that Richard McCullough, the FSU President, has an explicit responsibility to FSU’s students: this bill and its implications must be responded to in a public manner.

Public education in Florida has been under attack by DeSantis and his lackeys since his term as Governor began. This bill just puts on paper what has already been happening. Therefore, even if this bill fails, we want to see real change at our university. SDS has three simple demands of the university President and the Board of Trustees: in the interest of the entire student body, we demand that both parties make a commitment to

    • Protecting and expanding FSU's existing ethnic studies, diversity programs, and campus multicultural groups,

    • Increasing Black enrollment and faculty at FSU,

    • Opposing DeSantis and his attempts to attack public education.

SDS has attempted to meet with university officials numerous times and has been met with continual dismissal and derision. Here is a timeline of events:

Friday, February 24th: SDS submitted a request to speak about DeSantis’s proposed cuts to education (pre-HB999) during the allotted public comment time at the FSU Board of Trustees meeting. Comment was cut short due to “time concerns”. Our members were never given a chance to speak.

Monday, March 6th: SDS submitted a virtual formal request to meet with President McCullough (scheduled for March 23rd) to discuss HB999, it’s implications, and the University’s plan to address the bill. Our request never received a response.

Wednesday, March 22nd: SDS dropped a banner from the Student Union building. The text of the banner read: “McCullough, Defy Desantis! Protect D.E.I.”. The banner was taken down by FSU police within ten minutes. We received no response from University admin.

Thursday, March 23rd: SDS marched from Landis Green to Wescott Fountain to meet with President McCullough as requested almost three weeks prior. The doors to the building were locked prior to our arrival and guarded by police. When we forcibly entered the building, we were passed off to the university Provost, Jim Clarke, who refused to give a public statement denouncing the bill – he claimed that the university had “plans in place” to address the bill, but refused to publicize the plans. Local news was present, and they reported that President McCullough vacated campus that day “in the wake of the protest”.

Thursday, April 13th: SDS attended the President’s annual Ice Cream Social, where we finally saw the President face-to-face and demanded he make a statement on HB999. He dodged all questions, stating we [students and admin] are “all on the same side”, but that SDS members were “disrespectful” in our methods. McCullough refused to address our questions regarding our several attempts to meet him (listed above) before passing us off with police escort to the Director of Communications Dennis Schnittker. Schnittker told us on camera that he would “work with university staff to get us a meeting”, but ignored all questions on how soon this meeting could happen.

Wednesday, April 19th: SDS hosted a call/email-in day, inviting students and community members to call the offices of McCullough, the Board of Trustees, and the Director of Communications to request they meet with us and release a statement regarding HB999. Only a handful of calls went through, and all responses were dismissive of student concerns. Most calls received no answer or rang indefinitely. No emails received a response.

It is clear from this semester’s events that President McCullough and the Board of Trustees have no intention of speaking out against this dangerous bill. Despite the fact that it directly threatens members of the University at all levels, they remain silent. Both McCullough and the Board of Trustees have a responsibility to the student body to hear our concerns and make some real, tangible commitments to addressing them. We demand that McCullough and the Board of Trustees make a public statement denouncing the bill. We demand that the University publicize all plans they have to protect FSU’s ethnic studies, multicultural student groups, and faculty tenure. We demand that, even if this bill fails, McCullough and the rest of administration make tangible and immediate plans to increase Black enrollment and fund ethnic studies. We demand FSU admin come out from the shadows and do their jobs.

We will not stop until President McCullough and the Board of Trustees take action.

FSU admin, take a stand!

Oppose education bans!

#TampaFL #HB999