A meme posted by a sitting Impact Party senator criticizing Inspire Party sparked a Facebook debate about Student Government on Thursday night.
Daniel Weldon (Impact, Keys) posted the meme, which shows someone wearing an Inspire shirt looking frustrated. The caption said posting memes wouldn’t win the election because most students don’t care about SG.
In his post, Weldon wrote “Please stop posting propaganda to this page reacts only.”
Weldon said he posted the meme on the “Swampy UF memes for top ten public teens,” a private Facebook group with about 22,000 members, because he was tired of seeing Inspire candidates and supporters post their party’s propaganda.
The post started a conversation among students about the upcoming SG elections, which are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday and will allow the Student Body to elect 50 new senators based on residential areas. The meme received hundreds of likes and comments.
Despite Weldon not running for re-election, some students argued it was a campaign violation.
When asked if Weldon’s post was a campaign violation, SG Supervisor of Elections Erica Baker wrote in an email: “If anyone believes a potential violation has occurred they can submit it to the Elections Commission for them to decide.”
Weldon said he’s not running for re-election because he thinks he can do more for UF outside SG than as a senator.
“I’m not into SG at the time,” Weldon said.
Weldon said he emailed the Student Senate president, Senate secretary and Senate Pro Tempore Thursday after posting the meme to request a change of party affiliation.
Kylie Werk, one of the Impact campaign managers, said she contacted Weldon the same night he posted the meme to reprimand him. She said Weldon knew from previous campaigns that Impact under no circumstance uses negativity toward other candidates.
“While he may have posted that with good intentions, we absolutely condemn the fact that he posted it,” Werk said. “It does not reflect the values or beliefs of our party.”
Werk said she discovered Weldon had requested to change parties Friday when Trevor Schaettle, the Senate Pro Tempore and the Impact candidate for District B, told her about Weldon’s email.
Weldon declined to comment on whether the meme was related to his decision to leave Impact.
Weldon said he decided to change parties because he disagrees with Impact’s decision “to make the Big 9 groups and fraternities and sororities happy, instead of the entire Student Body.”
“I had my differences,” Weldon said. “It is what it is.”
He identified the “Big 9” as Jewish Student Union, Black Student Union, Hispanic Student Association, Asian American Student Association, Pride Student Union, Inter-Residence Hall Association, Women’s Student Association, Islam on Campus and Volunteers for International Student Affairs.
Weldon said Impact does this because the people in those groups are generally the only ones who vote.
Weldon said he was affected by Impact’s decision to not help smaller clubs this year because he served as the president of Young Americans for Freedom, which couldn’t apply for funding last year because of a law prohibiting first-year clubs from getting funding. Weldon said the lack of funding prevented them from recruiting members and organizing events.
He said he thinks it’s unfair that about $800,000 of the $1 million on the SG budget for organizations went to the “Big 9.” But he said he doesn’t blame Impact for the issue.
Weldon said he thinks some of the SG laws are outdated, and Impact is simply the main party at the moment. He said there has always been a main party in SG that does what Impact is doing.
“I don’t know if I’d necessarily say it’s a system party, but there’s a lot of similarities between the interest groups related to that main party every year,” Weldon said.
Ty Van Duyn, a UF finance freshman, said he thinks there’s no problem with Weldon posting the meme since he’s seen Inspire memes on the page as well.
“It’s a meme page where everything goes,” Van Duyn said. “Calling it a campaign violation is an overreaction. Even if he is part of the Impact Party, I don’t see it as a pro-Impact meme.”
The 18-year-old said he thinks Weldon’s statement that most people don’t care about SG is true because the voting turnout is low. However, he’s against online voting, which is what he thinks most people argue will increase civic engagement.
“Online voting is too easy to hack,” Van Duyn said. “If you truly care about Student Government, you should go out and physically vote.”
When Kianna Brown, a UF public relations senior, saw Weldon’s post Thursday, she found it contradictory.
“He said ‘stop posting propaganda,’ but what he posted was propaganda so he’s basically making himself look stupid,” the 21-year-old said.
Brown said she knows most students aren’t interested in SG because they either can’t come to campus to vote or they think their vote doesn’t count because of the existence of a “system party.”
She said Weldon should’ve used his position to encourage more people to become involved with SG instead of promoting disinterest.
“He has an opportunity to change those feelings, and he didn’t take that opportunity,” Brown said.