Inspire Party President Ben Lima began a Student Government public forum Monday by criticizing Impact Party for not attending the event.

“It is upsetting that the other party didn’t accept the invitation — that they couldn’t send one representative of their party to take an hour out of their day to speak to you and answer your questions,” Lima told the audience of about 30 students.  

The forum was held by Inspire one day before the start of Fall elections, which will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The Student Body will elect 50 new representatives based on residential locations.

The event was held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Pugh Hall. Along with Inspire, independent candidates Trevison Clark, who’s running for Murphree Area, and Adrian O’Sullivan, who’s running for Yulee Area, participated.  

Impact President Ben Auyang sent out an email to the forum participants Sunday night — four days after they were invited and one day before the event — apologizing for his delay in responding and saying Impact could not attend because they had to rework their schedule after Hurricane Irma.

“We have a previous time commitment and will be unable to attend the forum at the date and time proposed,” Auyang wrote in the email. “Had the request come at a more prompt time, we would have been able to attend.”

In a previous interview, Kylie Werk, one of Impact’s campaign managers, told the Alligator the party had scheduled three general body meetings for the nights of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

In his opening statement, Clark said SG officials need to be held accountable. He said senators must tell the Student Body what they’re doing and explain how and why they’re spending the students’ money.

“I don’t want to say anything about people who can’t defend themselves,” Clark said, referring to Impact, before adding that current senators are not addressing some concerns on campus.

Clark said issues like the lack of bike racks and vehicle parking, and structural damage around campus like damaged ceiling tiles in the second floor of Turlington Hall, are “not being fixed under the current status quo.”

After opening statements, a student from District A asked the independent candidates why they chose to run independently if they “are clearly against the party in control,” referring to Impact with 96 senators.

O’Sullivan said he thinks he can “more successfully” reach across the aisle and compromise with other senators as an independent than in a party. Clark said being an independent would let him fully represent his constituents without having to balance their wishes with those of other students.

When a PaCE student, someone who takes the first part of their credits online, asked the candidates if they were in favor of online voting, they all said yes.

“Online voting should be the standard,” Lima said. “We are going to do what we can to improve democracy.”

O’Sullivan said he was shocked online voting hasn’t been instituted yet.

“It needs to happen,” O’Sullivan said. “If you're not on campus you should still have the opportunity to see what's happening and be as involved as you want to be.”

Amanda Wolfrom, a UF political science junior, asked the candidates how they plan to increase inclusivity for transfer students on campus.

The 19-year-old transferred to UF this semester and chose to live in the Springs Residential Complex to be more involved on campus, but her experience hasn’t gone well. Wolfrom said ever since transfer Preview, which was very short and not informational, she’s had trouble engaging with student organizations.

She said her situation worsened after UF was forced to reschedule the Student Involvement Fair because of Hurricane Irma.

O’Sullivan said SG could work with the “transfer office” to send out emails to a listserv of transfer students and help with their transition.

“I don’t have too much to say on that right now, only because that is the first time I’ve heard that kind of issue,” O’Sullivan said.

Lima and Clark said SG should better communicate about what’s going on to students. Lima said SG can partner with student organizations to better publicize events and encourage students to use GatorConnect.

Wolfrom said she thought the candidates’ answers were “very good.”

“I caught them off guard, but that’s cool,” she said.

When a student asked candidates if they would advocate to change any SG laws to make the process of getting funding easier, Clark said he’s not against organization getting funding, but he wouldn’t change the laws because they “were put in there for a reason.”

O’Sullivan said he wouldn’t change the process to get funding either but would be open to suggesting new ideas like making new organizations raise money by themselves first before applying for SG money.

Lima said Inspire is “dedicated to helping student organizations thrive” and would try to make the process easier through in-person workshops and a new SG website.

In his closing statement, Lima said Inspire wanted to improve students’ lives but needed them to vote in order to do that.

"If you don't vote, there isn't a lot of representation," Lima said.

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