Students protest House Bill 999 in front of Administration building

Dozens of students gathered in protest of the recently proposed legislation that would stop the teaching of critical race theory and gender and sexuality studies


Nicholas Windfelder

Organizers Jodie Boisvert, Peyton Sibert, Megan Spring, and Trey Santorine (left to right) put this protest together to make students aware that their voices have meaning.

Savannah Peifer, Editor-in-Chief

Students and faculty gathered Wednesday at the university’s Administration building to protest after the Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee voted in favor of House Bill 999 Monday.

Rep. Alex Andrade proposed the bill in February at the beginning of the 60-day legislative session. The subcommittee will now send the bill back to the House and Senate alongside their favorable opinion. The bill will go into effect July 1, 2023 if voted into law. 

If passed, the legislation would end the teaching of women, gender, and sexuality studies alongside critical race theory in public post-secondary education. It also gives full hiring authority to university presidents and allows a university’s​​ Board of Trustees to call a tenure review at any time, a deviation from the current 5-year review period. 

The organizers members of the Comparative Studies Student Association wanted to send a message to FAU administration that they want to be protected from HB 999. They read an open letter to the administration, using the ‘#FreeMindsFreeCountry.’

A note written for the FAU Administration and signed by protestors. (Nicholas Windfelder)

Megan Spring, a second-year doctoral student in comparative studies, says it is important to make your opinion heard.

“I feel like education is the foundation of democracy. And this bill attacks, obviously very specific areas of study, but also is a larger attack on democracy and if we can’t protest here, I do think, not to be melodramatic, but I do think democracy has the potential to fall,” she said. 

Trey Santorine, a sociology graduate student, said the ramifications of passing HB 999 and bills similar would be a detriment to the future of education. 

“It would completely shake the whole academic system. Just directly banning what can be learned and taught around gender, race and sexuality, is completely authoritarian and really, it would represent a huge setback and completely repress academic thought in a lot of ways,” he said. 

Peyton Sibert, a second-year doctoral student in comparative studies, said it’s important to allow students to have safe spaces to debate and think freely and HB 999 intends to limit that ability. She also said students can have an array of emotions and be open with them while understanding there are spaces for free speech. 

“It’s okay to be afraid. We are fostering these communities and that our voices are not for nothing they are being heard, even if it doesn’t feel like that,” she said.

Jodie Boisvert, a doctoral student in comparative studies, argues this issue falls between all political spectrums and students must join together to fight against the legislature. 

“Students and faculty that are both Republican and Democrat feel similarly to this bill. It’s attacking our democracy, it’s attacking our freedom,” Boisvert said. “And for a group of people, regardless of what you’re on– for a group of people who say that they want to protect freedom to be implementing a bill like this is really the antithesis of what our legislators are supposed to be all about.”

Jules Brown, a UCF student on Spring Break attended the protest. She said it’s important to note these bills affect all public universities and students should protect each other. 

“It’s just important to protect students’ rights for education. Just because somebody doesn’t agree with the way something is taught doesn’t mean that we should completely ban it from our education system for good. It’s just simply a form of censorship that should not be,” she said. 

Morcel Whyne, a first-year biology student argued this bill only serves to censor minority voices.

Jules Brown (left) and Morcel Whyne (right) holding their protest signs.

“Who does this serve? You’re censoring African history, and all of this other history, but keeping European history and Western history. If your concern was to eliminate diversity, you just get rid of all cultural teachings altogether,” he said. “So, it seems like they’re only punishing African American parents and African American students and faculty and other minority faculty that may not have the chance to have a voice later on.”

Nicole Morse, Director for the Center of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, attended the protest to support students and they believe student voices are the most important in fighting against the bill. 

“I also think as a faculty member, it’s incredibly important to come out and support my students when they’re making known what they want in their education,” Morse said. “I think what was particularly powerful on Monday at the committee hearing was seeing how many students were speaking up and describing what they wanted from their education and why they don’t need to be shielded from ideas that legislators find uncomfortable.”

Morse wants the legislature to understand limiting the classes students can take is hindering free thinking. 

“Education is not about making up your mind in advance. It’s about engaging with a wide range of ideas and determining for yourself what you find to be the truth,” Morse said. 

In January, Florida College System Presidents released a statement in support of the governor’s earlier requests for diversity, equity, and inclusion information. Furthermore, the statement explained the colleges would not use critical race theory in their curriculum and denounced any use of it. 

FAU has not publicly commented on the bill. 

Savannah Peifer is the Editor-in-Chief for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories DM her on Instagram @ginger.savvy or email her at [email protected]