SG Senate Stands Up For the University’s Academic Freedom, Passing the HB 999 Resolution


Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske, Unsplash

Abigail Muth, Staff Writer

The story has been updated 4/5/2023 to reflect the signed resolution by Senate President Makayla Shinnick.

FGCU’s 25th Student Body Senate passed a resolution on Wednesday titled “Maintaining FGCU’s Academic Freedom” which highlights the areas of the Florida House Bill 999 that will affect the university’s students and faculty if it’s approved by Governor Ron DeSantis. The resolution also compares this house bill to the Student Government Constitution and the FGCU website and exhibits the contradictions within. 

This Senate Resolution, authored and sponsored by Student Government Senator Tanner Kelly and Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) Co-Chair Kaylee Dombrowski was approved to skip first reading, opened up for second reading and passed all in the last Senate meeting of the semester. They wanted to complete the process before the 2023-2024 senators assume their positions in April.

In the allocated time for Senator Kelly to introduce this resolution to the Senate, he said, “I urge you all to remove any personal biases that you may have and empathize with the perspective of your constituents who will be impacted by this [bill].”

After his introduction, Senator Kelly allocated the remainder of the time dedicated to introducing the bill to Dombrowski and Student Body Vice President Varnadore. 

“You have the unique opportunity to pass a resolution that opposes House Bill 999’s direct attack on students, our degrees, our ability to self determine A&S fees and our ability to belong,” Dombrowski said.

There was not much time left for the resolution’s introduction when it came time for Vice President Varnadore to speak, but what he did share seemed to make an impact on the present Senators as the majority of those who commented on the resolution later in the meeting quoted his remark. 

“Remember your role is to represent your students, represent your constituents and be mindful of that. Understand that this goes beyond yourself,” Vice President Varnadore said. 

The public section of Wednesday’s Senate meeting included eight other students who attended the Senate meeting to show their support of the resolution. Four of which spoke in the allocated time for public comment. 

This resolution was passed almost unanimously with one senator abstaining from voting, and one senator voting against it. The resolution was met with support from almost every senator who voiced opinion in the meeting, and few amendments were made to the original document. 

Senator Kelly and Dombrowski heard of concerns coming from the student body about House Bill 999 and decided that a resolution needed to be drafted. Included in the resolution are directions for Student Body President and Student Body Senate President to send the resolution to specific faculty members and government members in order to make sure student’s opinions on the subject are heard.

Schools such as University of North Florida and Florida Atlantic University Student Governments have also passed resolutions similar to the one passed at FGCU on Wednesday. 

“I think there’s a lot more fight to be had against authoritative bills like this. But at least this is the first step in getting the student body’s voice heard,” Senator Kelly said.

As for next steps, Senator Kelly hopes to get a similar resolution passed in the FGCU Faculty Senate as well. He has stood up in one Faculty Senate meeting so far and aims to help FGCU faculty understand how they can assist in student voices being heard on the subject. 

“Vice President Varnadore reports to [FGCU Faculty Senate] and he’s also mentioned several times the actions that we’re making in standing in opposition to HB999 and how the faculty themselves can move forward in supporting the students through that. So that’s kind of the next stage, but overall with this I’m very happy that it passed,” Senator Kelly said.

The resolution has been signed by Senate President Makayla Shinnick, and is available for public access: here.