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Friday, March 31, 2023

Editorial: SG elections and the necessity to vote with integrity

"I never encountered, in state and federal politics, activities as aggressive as at the University of Florida.” —Bob Graham, former U.S. senator and former governor of Florida

The adage goes that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Here at UF, we seem to be stuck in an insidious Möbius strip of our own design: Every few years we or another publication write on a controversy regarding “the System.” Students and alumni, outraged by the corruption and undemocratic one-party rule of UF Student Government, vow to do something, anything, to change the way things are. Failing to mobilize en masse, the System works the way it is supposed to, and the Greek interests that have dominated SG for decades remain in power. Disenchanted and disillusioned students graduate, the name of the ruling party changes, and a brand new class of baby Gators matriculate to UF only to do it all over again.

For those of you who are unaware, the System is the name used to refer to the coalition of Greek houses, Florida Blue Key  and extracurricular organizations that, for decades, have successfully kept SG seats and positions in prominent organizations, such as SG Productions or Accent, and access to coveted funds among themselves. At this point in our university’s history, the System’s existence is a relatively noncontroversial open secret: Thesis papers have been written on it, and publications all over the state have reported on it for decades. If you don’t believe us, a cursory Google of “uf sg corrupt” or “florida blue key the system” should bring you up to speed.

Just as the Unite Party became the Swamp Party, the remarkable ascension of outside challenger Access Party last Spring necessitated yet another rebranding for System interests, this time in the guise of the Impact Party. We all know the details: Campaigning on a platform of disrupting gridlock in SG — gridlock in this case translating to actual debate in the Senate, rather than uniform rule — Impact successfully wrested power back and restored the natural order of things.

For argument’s sake, we’re willing to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, if the System acted with a degree of transparency or were willing to open up its ranks, we’d be more tolerant of their hegemonic aspirations. Unfortunately, the parties involved not only continue to deny the existence of the System, but actively work to suppress non-Greek voter mobilization. As we have thoroughly covered over the last two weeks, it has been a years-long struggle to add online voting to SG elections. If we may invoke DJ Khaled for a moment, they don’t want you to vote. From withholding meals to restricting party privileges unless their members bring in “I Voted” stickers, or even the obvious and simple-yet-effective method of stuffing the party ticket with members who belong to Greek organizations, UF’s fraternities and sororities are far more effectual at mobilizing their constituency to go to the ballot box. This is no mistake, as it is their interests that are directly, well, at stake. Making the process easier for the other 90 percent of UF’s students by allowing online voting represents a grave threat to the System’s institutionalization, and they have fought tooth and nail to prevent it from happening.

When you fill out the ballot boxes next Tuesday and Wednesday, we ask that you vote with your conscience, not by your organization’s allegiances, or because your friend urged you to vote one way or the other; democracy should serve the people, not just the privileged.

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