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Sunday, January 16, 2022

‘Sketchy but do it’: The Swamp Party is the Unite Party

UF’s Student Government has become a one-party system, and you should know where that party came from.

With the failed attempts of the Taco Libre Party to qualify and the Students Party to organize, the Swamp Party is essentially running unopposed — which some may say they’ve been doing for years. But the domination is worse than ever.

Facebook events encouraging people to vote Swamp tout accomplishments like 24/5 Library West hours and refillable water-bottle stations. But don’t be fooled. Those additions date back to before Swamp’s creation in Fall 2012. How is that possible?

The Swamp Party is the Unite Party. Swamp rose out of Unite’s ashes after a series of unfortunate events forced the party’s organizers to rebrand.

In 2010, the Unite Tapes leaked. They revealed party officials discussing intimidation tactics to increase voter turnout. Sororities were implicated for giving members alcohol in exchange for votes and refusing to let pledges eat until they voted.

Then, in Spring 2012, after football coach Will Muschamp endorsed Gator walk-on and Students Party VP candidate Jesse Schmitt, Unite Party volunteer and then-Senate president pro tempore Jason Tiemeier threw away 268 copies of the Alligator from bins at Weimer Hall.

Soon after, Tj Villamil, who would later be elected Student Body president, appeared in a YouTube video criticizing the Alligator and falsely claiming it had refused SG’s request that it cut expenses to help UF. (SG doesn’t support the Alligator. That’s why it’s called The Independent Florida Alligator).

That election, the Unite Party’s president and VP beat the Students Party nominees by 114 votes. It was the highest voter turnout since 1983. It was clear something had to change.

So Unite became Swamp. To keep voters from remembering Unite’s shady history, Swamp tried to disassociate itself, even filing an elections violation complaint against the Students Party for claiming Unite had been replaced by Swamp. Swamp maintained that only 10 candidates had been involved with Unite.

If Swamp and Unite are so different, why are Swamp candidates on Facebook right now taking credit for Unite successes?

To be fair, most of the Swamp candidates in next week’s elections never ran under Unite. Also, it’s undeniable that services like 24/5 Library West and refillable water-bottle stations are great. They benefit students, and we love them. But if Swamp is going to acknowledge Unite’s accomplishments, why won’t it acknowledge Unite’s oversights?

In any case, Swamp doesn’t have a squeaky clean past, either.

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Last year, the Alligator published an email sent by Leah Miller, a liaison between the Swamp Party and its fraternity house representatives, which asked them to collect “I Voted” stickers and supply the party with a $250 check.

It ended with a request for readers to “DELETE THIS AFTER YOU GET THE INFORMATION!! WE CANT HAVE ANYTHING ON RECORD!”

Miller’s final words seem representative of Unite/Swamp/whatever tactics: “Sketchy, but do it! Thanks!”

[A version of this editorial ran on page 6 on 2/13/2014 under the headline "‘Sketchy but do it’: The Swamp Party is the Unite Party"]

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