Six students at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) are suing the state and the Board of Governors for the state’s university system for allegedly violating Title VI and the 14th amendment by underfunding the HBCU, CNN reports.
A federal lawsuit filed by the FAMU students last week accuses the state’s Board of Governors of allocating less funding to the HBCU compared to Florida's predominately white institutions (PWIs).
According to the lawsuit, state officials failed to provide funding "to enhance the facilities of FAMU until there is parity" with traditionally White institutions as required in a 1998 partnership agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
Instead, the state downsized FAMU's agriculture department and gave the University of Florida, a majority-white institution, “primary control over many of the research, education, and extension services," which resulted in more funding going to UF, per the suit.
“The students feel very strongly about the way in which they are experiencing the underfunding,” said Barbara Hart, one of the attorneys representing the six students.
FAMU students say underfunding has forced the institution to close buildings due to flood damage, pest issues, and wear and tear, putting a strain on university housing.
Repairs to the school's infrastructure were also put on hold as a result of less funding, the suit alleges.
“It’s constantly been an issue of something going wrong, things breaking down, not being fixed properly,” said Fayerachel Peterson, a graduate student at FAMU and a plaintiff in the suit.
Bobby Brown, a second attorney representing the students, said underfunding is visible even in the physical differences between the FAMU and Florida State University campuses.
“Being on Florida A&M’s campus and walking across the tracks seeing… where Florida State is, to feel the difference between that and to understand the historical ramifications across the tracks, I’m just really proud to be standing up with these students,” Brown told CNN.
The HBCU students are seeking a “special referee or mediator” to be appointed to help ensure FAMU receives equitable funding, per CNN.
“These students are a part of something – part of a movement and they are unafraid to stand up and do what’s right,” Brown said.