Tensions boiled over in higher education meeting Monday in the Legislature

By: - March 13, 2023 8:07 pm

People started shouting ‘shame’ at Florida lawmakers on March 13, 2023. Credit: screenshot/Florida Channel

More than 150 people came to a committee meeting Monday to express their concerns and fears related to changes in college majors and minors for students and concerns about tenure for professors in Florida.

The three-hour meeting was tense from the start, when Rep. Lauren Melo of Southwest Florida, who chairs the subcommittee, let the audience know that people pursuing public comments would get only 30 seconds, though the issues were piling up over what’s happening in Florida’s public community colleges and universities.

In at least two hours of public testimony, the remarks were largely in opposition of a higher education bill called HB 999.

Faculty, students, parents, and advocacy groups focusing on minority communities urged lawmakers to vote down an expansion of the bill. 

The criticisms ranged from fears of how the bill would affect students’ chosen majors to worries that future students and faculty won’t be interested in coming to Florida for higher education.

A little over two dozen people were unable to speak other than provide their name and their stance on the bill due to time constraints, according to Melo.

The committee approved the bill on party lines. At the end of the hearing, the audience members were disgruntled and loudly started to leave the room, and there were shouts of “shame on you” and “shame on all of you.”

Then the full crowd erupted into chants of ‘shame’ as they made their way out of the committee room.

Capitol security started to go toward the audience, but the crowd settled down and the majority left the meeting room.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.