HB 999 opponents fear bill would regulate student campus activities at Florida colleges

Rep. Yvonne Hinson worries Black sororities, fraternities would be impacted
The Florida Capitol buildings in Tallahassee, Florida.
Posted at 4:42 PM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 09:20:27-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The controversial HB 999 bill aims to restrict the programs and activities that Florida universities and colleges can promote or support.

It calls into question student organizations, groups or activities centered on diversity, equity and inclusion.

WPTV explored what the bill says and why some legislators are raising red flags.

Line 341 of the bill aims to prohibit universities or colleges from using any funds to promote, support, maintain, any programs or campus activities that support or adopt diversity, equity and inclusion. That line is raising red flags for some Florida legislators.

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State Rep. Yvonne Hinson shares some of the concerns she has regarding HB 999.
State Rep. Yvonne Hinson shares some of the concerns she has regarding HB 999.

"What campus activities are you attempting to regulate?" state Rep. Yvonne Hinson, D-Gainesville, asked during a recent House committee hearing.

Hinson, who serves parts of Alachua and Marion counties, laid out her concerns and questions to the bill's sponsor state Rep. Robert Alex Andrade, R-Pensacola.

"The campus activities that would be at all discussed or considered by this bill are campus activities conducted by administration and professors in their position of roles of power over students on that campus — student activities not included," Andrade said.

Read the full bill below:

"Of course, he answered that it would be zero effect on operations of student activities, student programs, multicultural centers, Black student centers, Latino student centers or any activities related to students," Hinson said. "Although the bill itself seems to impact all of these different activities."

A member of a sorority herself, Hinson said her interpretation of the bill is that it could also impact the way Black sororities or fraternities operate on campus.

On the committee floor, Andrade assured Hinson that the bill does not impact Black sororities and fraternities or their abilities to hold social justice events among other activities.

Andrade went on to say that other groups could be impacted.

Robert Alex Andrade speaks at a recent hearing on HB 999
Robert Alex Andrade speaks at a recent hearing on HB 999.

"Purely faculty advisory committees, obviously that would be included, but advisers to specific student groups are not prohibited at all to continue being advisers to those student groups," Andrade said.

Hinson said the bill's language may have a larger impact on advisers of any student-led groups or activities tied to diversity, equity and inclusion.

"Frankly faculty that is paid by the university may not be able to be faculty advisers to these groups. They won't be," Hinson said. "Even if they will, this is going to intimidate them and create a chilling effect."

No amendments of the bill have been adopted. Its next stop is the higher education appropriations subcommittee.