BOCA RATON, Fla. — Controversial state legislation targeting higher education brought out activism at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on Wednesday.
If passed, HB 999, among other things, would prohibit universities or colleges from using money to promote, support, or maintain programs that support diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Some college students fear it's an attack on their right to a free education.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education
Free minds, free country. That was the message dozens of FAU students gathered under Wednesday to take a stand for their education, while encouraging others to join them.
Chants filled the air at FAU as the group of students and some faculty members brought a diversity of voices together against HB 999.
One of those voices belonged to Trey Santorine. The sociology graduate student said this is the first time he's gotten involved in political activism, and it feels good.
"One of the most worrying things that I think we can all agree is concerning, regardless of your politics, is government censorship of education," Santorine said.
The legislation is aimed at higher education practices.
"When we are allowed to discuss openly, read openly, think openly, democracy flourishes," student Megan Spring said.
This group worries the bill will limit what they are able to study, restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and further marginalize certain groups as it removes majors and minors in gender studies and other areas.
"It sets a precedent that, at public universities, our government has the authority to disallow us things that are quote unproven," Spring said.
Admissions counselor and FAU grad Ilse Cruz joined the group on the lawn. She hopes to be a professor one day.
"It makes me nervous because that is so unconstitutional," Cruz said. "Why are we going to get censorship for doing the things we should be teaching our students? We have to know what happened in the past in order to progress and move forward."
So while this group watches and waits to see what plays out in the state legislature, they'll continue to speak out for their future.
"We're trying to make our voices heard. But what's also concerning is it doesn't seem to be stopping," Santorine said.
The group at FAU is also hosting a webinar Wednesday night with local lawmakers including Democratic State Sen. Tiny Polsky and Sen. Lori Berman to talk more about what this bill means and the potential impacts.