Attorneys Representing Florida A&M Students Revise Lawsuit That Alleges Racial Discrimination

In September 2022, six students at historically Black Florida A&M University in Tallahassee filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the state of Florida. The suit claimed that the state is discriminating against African Americans because Florida A&M receives less funding per student than the University of Florida. Moreover, the complaint alleged that the state supports programming and courses of study at Florida State University, a traditionally White university also located in Tallahassee, that unnecessarily duplicates programming at FAMU, which steers prospective students toward Florida State.

In June, a federal judge said that attorneys would have to provide more evidence to show that alleged discrimination could be traced to segregation in order for the litigation to proceed. In his ruling the judge wrote that “the complaint alleges differences between FAMU and other public universities, including in funding, quality of faculty, graduation rates, and mission statements, but the complaint is short on facts tying these differences to the segregated-by-law system.” He gave attorneys time to refile the lawsuit with more evidence to prove racial discrimination.

Recently, a revised lawsuit was filed. The plaintiffs argue that “part and parcel of eliminating unnecessary program duplication is to create unique and/or high demand programs at FAMU, thus giving it the ability to have its own distinctive academic identity. A program is only ‘unique’ to FAMU if it is not offered at Florida State, the only traditionally White institution that is geographically proximate to FAMU. Once a ‘unique’ program is duplicated, it is no longer unique. A ‘high demand’ program is one that a disproportionately large number of students are likely to choose as their major program(s) of study.”

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