In a chaotic and emotional Student Senate meeting Tuesday, 43 students signed up for public debate, asking senators to work toward canceling classes Thursday ahead of Richard Spencer’s speech and to increase funding for the Counseling & Wellness Center.
“Students should not have to fall behind their classes if they fear for their safety,” said Shreyas Amol Jethwani, the creator of a movement called #NotOnMyCampus, which launched a Facebook page at 6 p.m. Tuesday asking students to speak up at Senate. “Students should not be forced to be put in harm’s way.”
In an unofficial vote, Sen. Zachariah Chou (Inspire, Murphree) asked for senators to raise their hands if they want class canceled.
As hands shot into the air, some senators stared slack-jawed, apparently waiting for order to be restored in the chamber.
But then Senate President Ian Green and Senate President Pro-Tempore Janae Moodie raised their own hands, eagerly.
When Student Body President Smith Meyers spoke about Spencer’s event, Chad Adams, a #NoNazisAtUF organizer, spoke out of turn and asked Meyers what he was doing exactly to represent students.
As Green (Impact, Business Administration) hit the gavel and asked the sergeant-at-arms to intercede, Adams talked over him. Meyers said he could only speak to senators, so Senator Ben Lima (Inspire, District D) repeated the question.
While condemning white supremacy during her report, Pro-Tempore Janae Moodie’s voice shook while she said Spencer had the right to free speech, but not the right to change students’ moral compasses.
“I know, and I hear you,” Moodie said, crying. “I really do hear you. We’re doing our best.”
Emotions also ran high as students told senators about their battles with mental health illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts. The students were upset that UF’s local fee committee rejected a proposed 71.4 cent increase per credit hour for the Counseling & Wellness Center.
As a response to Chou’s letter to the editor published Monday in the Alligator, Haley Smith, a member of the local fee committee, wept as she said the process is more complex than most students understand.
She said even if the committee had voted to increase student fees, Gov. Rick Scott would have vetoed the proposal because he based his campaign on affordable college for everyone.
Meyers said his administration received funding for 12 counselors from UF’s Provost’s Office for the next three years. He asked students to help him ask UF to reduce the center’s overhead costs and lobby the state for funds. The overhead cost is the 13 percent charge on the expenditures of UF’s auxiliary organizations that produce revenue, which includes the CWC, according to Alligator archives.
“We have three years to fight for this money and make it not come from students’ pockets,” Meyers said.
UF student Lillian Rozsa told senators how she was diagnosed with depression last Spring and was lucky to get professional help in Tallahassee, where she was interning. Recently, she said, she’s felt her mental illness return, so she requested an appointment at the CWC.
But she was told to wait until Nov. 3.
“Today, I’m fine, but I don’t know where my demons will be tomorrow,” she said. “That’s scary.”
Sen. Paulo Bazan (Impact, Engineering) asked students who spoke during public debate to remember senators are students too, and they are also afraid.
“Everybody here cares and matters,” Bazan said. “We’re really trying to do our best here, we just don’t know how to sometimes.”