At the only Student Government debate before elections, both Impact Party and Access Party spent the majority of the time hurling insults at each other.

Moderator Marna Weston stepped in to remind the candidates about the purpose of the debate.

“I want to ask all sides to please continue the civility of the Gator tradition of this debate,” he said.

Monday night at the University Auditorium, executive candidates of the two parties spent an hour debating and answering questions submitted by students. UF President Kent Fuchs also asked questions by video message, in front of a crowd of about 200 students.

Each party had two minutes to answer a question, followed by a minute of rebuttal from the other party. The party that answered a question first then had another final 30 seconds for rebuttal.

Impact was asked whether it was a rebranding of Swamp Party.

Susan Webster, the Impact Student Body presidential candidate, said Impact was a result of Access members leaving their party.

“So many of my friends have left the Access Party because they want to stand behind proven leadership,” she said.

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Impact Party presidential candidate Susan Webster speaks during the Student Government debate Monday night in the University Auditorium. Topics of discussion during the debate ranged from online voting and gridlock inside Student Senate to preeminence and representing graduate students.

Jordan McPherson/Alligator Staff

Access was critiqued for not having a successful executive term. Kalyani Hawaldar, the Access Party Student Body presidential candidate, argued that Access implemented gender-neutral restrooms across campus, and the executive ticket donated its salaries to the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. One of Access’ platform points last Spring was online voting, which is now on the ballot for the upcoming election.

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Access Party presidential candidate Kalyani Hawaldar speaks during the Student Government debate Monday night in the University Auditorium. Topics of discussion during the debate ranged from online voting and gridlock inside Student Senate to preeminence and representing graduate students.

Jordan McPherson/Alligator Staff

Hammaad Saber, the Access Student Body candidate for vice president, said online voting hasn’t been supported by the majority party in Senate.

“The lack of online voting in the 21st century means there’s voter suppression, and we fight for the right for every Gator,” he said.  

Webster said she supports online voting.

“I want to work across the aisle all the time to make sure so we don’t have a standstill like we did last year,” she said.

Lillian Rozsa, the Access Student Body candidate for treasurer, said debate and deliberation create a healthy environment for democracy.

“Our university is not used to a two-party system, and that’s not right,” she said. “Democracy doesn’t function with just one party.”

After both parties gave their closing statements, Access Party chanted in celebration while Impact Party gathered together. 

As students filed out of the auditorium, Caroline Kaplan lingered. The 19-year-old said the SG debate was her first time watching any type of political debate.

“I’ll definitely be voting because now I see that it’s something I shouldn’t ignore,” the advertising sophomore said. “Because it affects everyone, including me.”

Contact Melissa Gomez at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MelissaGomez004

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