Protestors flood the breezeway to oppose HB 999, SB 266

Dozens of FAU community members gather in opposition of pending Florida legislation


Protesters in opposition of HB 999 Photo taken by Pete Gordon

Mary Rasura and Christopher Vargas

On Thursday, the FAU Action Coalition, a group of students and faculty in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), marched down the Breezeway to voice their disagreement with controversial pieces of proposed legislation. 

They protested against House Bill 999 (HB 999), pending state House legislation which would ban spending on DEI programs, the teaching of critical theory, and give full hiring authority to university presidents. Senate Bill 266 (SB 266) is the companion bill for the state Senate.

Like HB 999, SB 266 grants a university Board of Trustees (BoT) the power to call a tenure review at any time. The bill also bans the teaching of any course built on the basis of racism, sexism, or oppression while encouraging respective BoT’s to review courses periodically. The two pieces of legislation also ban university funding from any non-conservative activist group. 

Trevian Javier Briskey, a sophomore business management major, is the Coalition founder and one of the lead organizers for the protest.

“What’s happening is affecting the majority of our campus and people don’t understand what’s happening,” Briskey said. “They’re assuming that it doesn’t impact them just because they’re not directly hearing it. We’re putting it in their faces so they understand that this is a problem that is affecting everybody on campus, students and faculty alike. DEI affects everybody. Everybody is deserving of a safe space on campus.”

Sheila Jaffe attended the protest in support of the cause, representing the Palm Beach County (PBC) chapter of the National Organization for Women. NOW is a grassroots feminist organization with chapters in every state and a multitude of colleges and universities including FAU. PBC NOW created the Feminist Scholarship Fund in 1995, now administered by FAU as the Feminist Fund. 

“The money was donated to FAU Foundation in 2017 to be used for women, gender and sexuality studies,” Jaffe said. “So if that is no more, then we will consider taking our funds back again, administering it ourselves, which is what we did before.” 

On March 15, HB 999 was updated to change language banning gender studies and replaced it with an outright ban of critical theory. These theories include Critical Race Theory, Feminist Theory, and Queer Theory.

Sophomore political science major Nick Coyte was on the Breezeway with freshman neuroscience major Angel Strigl as a part of the Turning Point USA chapter at FAU. Turning Point USA is a conservative advocacy group with chapters on multiple colleges and universities. They wanted to talk to protesters about why they were protesting, but were turned away.  

Coyte stated that some protesters called him a “fascist” and told him to “fuck off.” 

Strigl said that they received mixed reception, where some of the protesters engaged with them while others told them to leave.

“We want to find people to talk and share our ideas, maybe others would hopefully understand ours,” Strigl said.

Senior communications major Brandon Kron, a collegiate Celsius representative, expressed that he doesn’t have to agree with exactly what they’re protesting for, but he doesn’t mind it because he feels they have a right to do so. 

Senior marketing major Raya Levine believes that HB 999 is government overreach in education. 

“Let teachers teach, let college students be adults and think for themselves and choose what they would like to learn,” Levine said. “Stop imposing your beliefs on people, that’s not everybody’s belief, that’s not everybody’s religion.”

Mary Rasura is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @maryrasura.

Christopher Vargas is a contributing writer at the University Press. For more information on this story or other stories, you can reach him at [email protected].