Florida A&M Students Sue the State for Alleged Racial Discrimination in University Funding

Standing brick sign saying "Florida A&M University Established 1887

“Our school has always made a little go a long way, but we shouldn’t have to,” said Britney Denton, a first-year doctoral student at FAMU.

Six students from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University have filed a class action lawsuit against the state of Florida.

The students are suing the state for alleged racial discrimination, claiming that political leaders purposely withheld equal funding from the historically Black University compared to the University of Florida, a predominantly white institution.

"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 alleges. 

From 1987 to 2020, FAMU has allegedly been denied about $1.3 billion in funding, according to a press release from Grant & Eisenhofer, the law firm representing the students.

Barbara Hart, an attorney and principal at Grant & Eisenhofer, told the Tallahassee Democrat that FAMU's problems with room shortages prior to the beginning of the fall semester, bug infestations, and the athletics department's understaffed personnel, all reflect the university's underfunding situation.

“Our school has always made a little go a long way, but we shouldn’t have to,” said Britney Denton, who is a listed plaintiff in the lawsuit and first-year doctoral student at FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies.

“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," she continued. "We’re proud to be here, and we want Florida to be proud to support us, and other HBCUs, equally.”

FayeRachel Peterson, a first-year graduate student in chemistry, told CBS News that her friend at Florida State University doesn't have to worry about working while pursuing a master's degree, whereas she alleges that she was paid poorly as a research assistant at FAMU early last month. 

This realization inspired her to file the lawsuit, Peterson told the outlet. She told CBS that she thinks FAMU doesn't receive as much financing as the other Florida state universities.

"Even if I can't get more funding, I would hope in the future that other students can have better opportunities," Peterson told CBS MoneyWatch. 

The students are asking a Florida court to order state officials to reimburse FAMU for the state aid it allegedly should have received and start giving the school the same amount of per-student funding as the University of Florida within the next five years, Hart told CBS Money Watch.

The State University System of Florida told Inside Edition Digital that is is not in their policy to comment on pending litigation. Gov. Ron DeSantis' office has not responded to Inside Edition Digital’s request for comment.

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