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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Change is clearly the most powerful bipartisan player in this election cycle. It is joined by the call to throw entrenched special interests out of government.

At UF, the Greek community has controlled Student Government for longer than I can remember. Regardless of names, one party and one interest group have dominated SG. This ensures that minority interests will come first when money is allocated and leadership positions are filled. This also means important electoral reforms are pushed to the back burner in order to maintain the imbalance of power.

Some of this is not the fault of Greek dominance. In the face of a turnout machine that can be easily run through the organized network of sorority and fraternity communities, there has been no legitimate, organized opposition. This failing, however, cannot be explained independently of a political process that keeps turnout at a minimum and disconnects most students from their government.

Any sort of accommodations for students who cannot make it to the polls on the two election days has been successfully resisted, even though similar accommodations have been made on other campuses and in the larger electoral process. This naturally favors parties whose base lives on or very near campus.

The Greek parties have defined legitimate campaigning as creating a disturbance in the middle of the Student Body's workplace instead of seeking out voters during their free time, which is the common political practice off campus. This alienates most students from participating in elections, unless a specific political organization is compelling them to turn out.

The one person, one vote rule that is fundamental to the entire American electoral process is completely smashed in the SG system. There is no sense whatsoever in terms of political accountability. Students are forced to sort out the representatives of their residences, their colleges and their class.

The result of this burdened system is a blurring of electoral contests, unequal representation and a weakening of the bonds of accountability between the student and his or her representative.

This year, change is in the air.

Through this lengthy election cycle, an unprecedented political network of passionate, thoughtful students has been built. It should not go to waste.

When November finally comes and goes, I challenge the students actively participating in this presidential race to do something in line with both maverick candidates: This spring, put aside your differences, start the Change Party and accomplish something historic in our SG. Kick out the special interest and fix the electoral process.

If every student campaigning for a presidential candidate goes back to life as usual after November 4, they will have failed to accept personal responsibility for making change a reality, which is a core principle of both camps. I strongly encourage the collective base of student advocates for a better government to carry the banner of change together to the spring's SG elections.

Michael Belle is a second-year political science graduate student.

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