Despite about 54 percent of UF degree-seeking students being female in Fall 2015, according to the most recent UF data, students will vote today and Wednesday for an all-male Student Government executive ticket.
This is the ﬁrst time an executive ticket hasn’t included women since 2011’s Unite Party’s executive candidates, according to Alligator archives. Impact Party’s candidates are running unopposed: Smith Meyers for UF Student Body president, Mario Agosto, for vice president and Revel Lubin, for treasurer.
Party opponents argue the ticket shows hypocrisy in Impact’s past arguments about diversity, while party members said the connection is misinterpreted. Impact’s new party president, Donald Mercado, and the new party treasurer, Johnny Townsend, are also male.
The party is running 18 female senate candidates out of 49 for this Spring election.
Progress Party has seven male candidates, and one of the three independent candidates is female. Within Senate, three female Impact senators chair the six legislative committees.
Impact spokesperson Janae Moodie said the next Senate president will probably be female, but Senate will vote on that.
On April 5, 2016, Impact senators argued and ultimately didn’t approve two male students nominated for UF Supreme Court positions by former Student Body President Joselin Padron-Rasines, partly because the court would have been all male if they were selected.
Kylie Werk, Senate majority leader during Spring 2016, said during the debate that because there has been fewer than 10 elected female UF Student Body presidents, there’s an issue with gender diversity at UF, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the Alligator.
“To not diversify one of the most important bodies of UF Student Government could possibly be problematic,” she said, referring to the court nominees. “Who knows what a body full of males are going to do when there is an issue relating to women’s rights on this campus?”
Susan Webster said she remembered a conversation with Kalyani Hawaldar, of Access Party, last Spring about how they might have been UF’s first two female presidential candidates.
When Webster won the presidency, she became the second female Student Body president in a row after UF’s first Latina president, Access’ Joselin Padron-Rasines to take the position.
She said the current executive ticket isn’t an issue because the men were the best candidates. Even without gender diversity, there’s diversity in background and race.
“It’s not about checking boxes,” she said. “It’s about the people in the roles.”
Praveen Varanasi, a former Access District D senator, said diversity was only a tagline for Impact, never an issue it actually cared about.
In Spring 2016, Varanasi said he argued for Padron-Rasines’ Supreme Court nominees: Adam Trumbly, the only Native American law student in his year at the time, and Kenneth Cunningham, an openly gay 15-year U.S. Army veteran in his 50s.
Varanasi, 21, said Padron-Rasines picked two qualified, impartial individuals who were denied because they weren’t loyal to Impact.
“The lack of diversity arguments that have been made by Impact in the past was made deliberately as a way to legitimize their political agenda,” he said.
Impact senators also argued that Padron-Rasines didn’t efficiently advertise the positions to law students, according to the audio recording.
Padron-Rasines wrote in an Alligator letter to the editor that she emailed students about the nominations eight times through an email list. Varanasi said she also reached out on social media.
When Webster nominated agency heads, nine out of 13 were male, according to the meeting’s agenda. Varanasi said this showed Impact only uses diversity to further its own plans. He said the all-male ticket proves this again.
“It just goes to show that these individuals will do whatever they can to further their agenda,” he said.
Janae Moodie said Impact selected those most qualified for executive candidates. She said the party doesn’t lack female leaders, including herself, a woman of color.
She added that Impact senators’ arguments against Padron-Rasines’ nominees can’t be used against the executive ticket because the situations aren’t similar. She said women were in the running for the positions, but the three men were the best fit.
“In the Supreme Court, there were nine out of nine positions that were filled by men compared to our 53-person slate of candidates,” she said. “It’s not analogous.”
Kenneth Cunningham, 53, stood silently in the back of Senate’s chamber watching the majority of senators stand and vote “no” on his nomination April 5, 2016.
After, he approached senators and asked why some voted against him and Trumby. He said they didn’t understand the nominee’s qualifications or how well the position was advertised.
They promised Cunningham they would vote for him if there was a second hearing.
He said some senators believed the candidate pool included all UF law students. But to be considered, law students must have a 2.0 GPA and completed the class, evidence, making the number of potential applicants about 200, he said.
Cunningham, a third-year UF law student, said he realized Impact senators voted against him because they wanted their own people in the court.
When Senate voted, that procedure wasn’t followed correctly for a second hearing. Cunningham was there again, waiting to speak to senators. He said they told him party leadership had dictated how they should vote.
“The leadership of the Senate had yelled at them to vote the way that they wanted them to vote, which was basically against us,” he said.
Cunningham said he knew then that all arguments Impact made only lasted long enough to benefit the party.
“The proof is in the pudding,” he said. “And there was the pudding.”
Elections will be held today and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Students will be able to vote for:
• Student Body president
• Vice president
• 50 Student Senate seats based on college or academic year
• 11 amendments to the UF Student Government constitution
• 2 referendums
Broward Hall library
Health Science Center C2-041C Heavener, Room 202
Jennings first- floor library
Levin College of Law (Bruton-Geer Hall) - side hallways by the cafeteria
Marston Science Library, main room
Murphree Area Commons, Conference Room 106
Norman Hall Education Library
Reitz Union computer lab
Southwest Recreation Center - cafe near entrance on left side Springs Area Office, Room C202
Contact Paige Fry at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @paigexfry