Clarification on Implementation of Regulation 9.016

Dear Chairman Lamb and Commissioner Diaz,

My name is Katie Blankenship. I am the inaugural director of PEN America Florida. PEN America is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to support free expression in the United States and worldwide. I submitted a comment opposing Regulation 9.016 in November and I was in the audience on January 24th when the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) approved these measures enforcing SB 266.

As you recall, the room was packed with concerned Floridians, with many more filling an overflow room. I and many fellow Florida citizens were not allowed to speak during the meeting since the BOG limited comments to 15 minutes, 1 minute per speaker. Refusing to provide adequate time to hear from Floridians was disappointing in itself, but the BOG’s refusal to seriously engage or address Floridians’ deep concerns about the impact on academic freedom was beyond the pale.

As the BOG was forewarned, the passage of 9.016 and implementation of SB 266 has had immediate and devastating consequences. I am deeply ashamed that the BOG and Florida College System have taken such harmful measures without regard for their impact on our state’s students, and I write today to urge you to take action to diminish such harm.

During the January BOG meeting, a governor responded to a public comment addressing concern for the closure and impact on student groups under 9.016. The governor and other members of the BOG stated without hesitation that this fear was misplaced and that Regulation 9.016 specifically exempts student groups from these regulations.

Yet on the exact same day, the President of the University of North Florida announced the closure of its Intercultural Center, LGBTQ Center, Women’s Center, and even its Interfaith Center. While these are university centers, they provide resources, space, and assistance to any number of student groups.

My request, therefore, is this: the BOG and Florida College System should immediately clarify any and all impact that Regulation 9.016 will have on student groups and on university centers that support them. While student groups are able to continue in their existence, what about the following scenarios?

  • Can student groups hold meetings on campus or other university buildings?
  • Will student groups be provided campus security for any public events or meetings?
  • Will student groups be allowed to promote their meetings and events on campus?
  • Will student groups continue to have faculty supervisors, mentors, or sponsors that assist in their formation and operation?
  • Will universities be able to advertise these student groups and promote their events?
  • Do the answers to any of these questions change based on the type of student group or the content of their messaging, events, or meetings?
  • Do Florida colleges and universities still support religious freedom and interfaith dialogue?

These are critical questions, and Floridians deserve answers. During the January BOG meeting, Chairman Lamb spoke at length about his pride in our university system. Yet while celebrating our #1 status, and repeatedly reminding us that we are “Better Together, and Together we are #1”, the BOG took steps to tear us apart, make us more polarized, and leave our students without critical community and resources.

The repercussions of the BOG’s actions continue as I write this. UNF is shutting its doors to an interfaith office whose vision was to “promote interfaith cooperation as a UNF priority and establish religious pluralism as a cornerstone of diversity on campus, in the community, and beyond.” The LGBTQ center, which is also closing, “envisions a university where all people are fully included and affirmed, and where justice, equality, and respect prevail.” This is not indoctrination. These are the types of visions and efforts that bring us together and make us worthy of a #1 ranking.

Please provide clarity and answers to these critical questions. Florida is counting on you.


Katie Blankenship
Director, PEN America Florida