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Jan 7-At Florida's only public HBCU, students are wary of political influence on race education
Jan 05

By SHARON JOHNSON Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A core mission of Florida A&M University from its founding over a century ago has been to educate African Americans. It was written into the law that established the school along with another college, in Gainesville, reserved for white students. At Florida's only public HBCU, some students now fear political constraints might get in the way of teaching parts of their history. A law signed in May by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis blocks public colleges from using taxpayer money on diversity programs. It has spurred protests and left many students watching for signs the new guidance will affect teaching of topics related to race and American history.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A core mission of Florida A&M University from its founding over a century ago has been to educate African Americans. It was written into the law that established the school along with another college, in Gainesville, reserved for white students.

At Florida's only public historically Black university, some students now fear political constraints might get in the way of teaching parts of their history.

A law signed last spring by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, blocks public colleges from using taxpayer money on diversity programs. It also forbids instruction of theories that "systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States and were created to maintain social, political, and economic inequities."

The new law, part of broader GOP efforts to rein in campus efforts on equity and inclusion, has spurred protests on campus. Some students say they are watching for signs the new guidance will affect teaching of topics related to race and American history.

Chad Preston, a senior political science major, said he worries some viewpoints will be silenced.

"We deserve the same level of education that all these other states are getting. We deserve the same information," he said.

DeSantis describes the law as an effort to rid university classrooms of what he calls left-leaning "woke" indoctrination. His education policies - including limits on what schools can teach about racism and which bathrooms students use - have faced criticism from civil rights leaders but fueled his political rise by harnessing culture war passions.

"In reality, what this concept of DEI has been is to attempt to impose orthodoxy on the university," DeSantis said at a ceremony in May when he signed the bill into law. "This has basically been used as a veneer to impose an ideological agenda, and that is wrong."

The university, founded in 1887, hosts about 10,000 students at its campus a few blocks from the state capitol.

The new law has made Florida a difficult learning environment for students and faculty of color, said Marybeth Gasman, a Rutgers University historian whose research focuses on historically Black colleges and universities and systemic racism in higher education.

"I've talked to some FAMU faculty who have basically told me that they're keeping their head down because they're afraid they're going to lose their jobs," Gasman said. By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023