Students at Florida International University are raging over the looming House Bill 999 and the complacency of FIU’s administration to it. A walkout and a protest on campus took place Thursday, April 13, despite less-than-ideal weather. The “1,000 Panther Walkout” was organized by Free FIU, a coalition of students, faculty, and professors.
If this bill were to pass, the effective date would be July 1, 2023. This is the date that would be related to the death of academic freedom, and it accurately tells history.
The walkout started on the lawns of Graham Center, where speeches and chants were heard. The primary chant of the crowd was: “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Ron DeSantis, go away!”
Protesters then made their way to Primera Casa with the sounds of chanting and percussion.
The entrance of Primera Casa was engulfed with sticky notes with messages from the protesters, but they were removed as soon as an hour and a half after the walkout ended.
The protest ended back at the lawns of the Graham Center, with students taking the microphone and an invitation to return to protest on April 27, the day of the Board of Trustees meeting.
An FIU student, Michael Peterson, expressed that: “This protest, for me, is the deepest expression of academic and ideological freedom; a necessary action so the university knows that all viewpoints should be tolerated.”
Since diversity is really what this bill is targeting, that’s what the theme of the protest seemed to be. A graduate student, Lee McLoughlin, speaks of why that is the case: “There are so many different people with different angles on this; Desantis managed to really annoy a lot of groups. I like seeing all these different groups come together; I think it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”
HB 999, which many historians express their horror at, threatens academic freedom, diversity in higher education, and tenured professors for teaching the truth. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs at universities are being targeted by this bill since it blocks state or federal funding for DEI programs or activities: “Programs that show preferential treatment based on race, gender or other identifiers are also prohibited.”
HB 999 would ban general education courses teaching “identity politics” or that define American history “as contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”. In other words, more whitewashing and a suggested future similar to that of the novel Fahrenheit 451, or worse.
The bill limits and controls what universities are allowed to teach. It would ban academic disciplines like queer theory and “critical race theory.” Several majors and minors could also be eliminated, any associated with the following: “Critical Theory, including, but not limited to, Critical Race Theory, Critical Race Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, Radical Feminist Theory, Radical Gender Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Social Justice, or Intersectionality”
It would also ban courses “based on unproven, theoretical, or exploratory content”. We are still not sure what that could mean.