When I became Student Body president, I wanted to make sure that diversity was more than just a checkmark. Because I want to chip away at the racism, classism and discrimination that exists in Student Government — issues that will continue to plague SG going forward.
On Tuesday, the Student Senate chose to reject my nominees for the Supreme Court for purely political purposes. But that’s not the uniquely disheartening part. The majority party in the Senate has routinely blocked my nominations throughout this year because I refused to participate in the status quo of dividing our students along lines of affiliation. The uniquely disheartening part of the Senate’s behavior is that they used the guise of diversity as their justification.
As someone who cares about the true spirit of diversity and inclusion, I was and continue to be inflamed, and, frankly, disgusted. My two nominees were law students who went through an interview process after the entire law school was emailed 8 times about the vacancy. I made my appointments in February. It took the Senate two months to even hear my appointments. Not once did senators raise a question about process or diversity.
Adam Trumbly and Kenneth Cunningham are my two nominees. They’re qualified and unbiased. Adam created a law student organization, does pro bono work and will be interning with the U.S. Department of Justice this summer. Kenneth is a 15-year army veteran and has owned two businesses. They respect the rule of law and the importance of the court. But I was told my nominees were not diverse enough.
Did I mention Kenneth would be the first openly gay veteran to serve on the court, or that Adam would be the first Native American? They’re more than just a diversity check mark on somebody’s list. They’re human beings. They’re Gators.
But the Senate still shot them down because they didn’t have the right identity — they wanted a woman, according to several opposing senators. I could have appointed the first LGBTQ+ woman of color to the court, and it still wouldn’t have mattered. The Senate would have rejected my nominee regardless. Their actions are driven by partisan games and their hatred of me.
The senators who voted down these students showed that their identities as a gay man and a Native American weren’t worth anything more to them than a political ploy devoid of substance. They revealed a real problem in our SG, our university and our wider community.
On Tuesday, senators prevented two qualified law students from serving and used diversity as a political talking point. If diversity was truly important to the senators who spoke against these nominees, why was my effort to mandate diversity training for executive branch members blocked by the Senate Judiciary Committee this past Sunday? Diversity wasn’t important April 3, but two days later on April 5, diversity is paramount?
I’ve been disappointed by the divisive and manipulative tactics of some student leaders this year but never more than this week. I thank the members of the majority party who voted with their conscience. I hope they will work with me as I spend the remaining days of my administration to fight for two nominees whom I know represent the best of this university.
Please urge your Student Senate to rise to the occasion and confirm these two nominees. Find your senator on sg.ufl.edu and reach out to them about two candidates who embody the importance of diversity, qualifications and what the Gator Good is all about.
Joselin Padron-Rasines is the UF Student Body president. Her column appears monthly.