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Friday, March 31, 2023

UF student made national news over Spring Break.

If you caught a glimpse of the headlines, you know it wasn’t for casting UF in a positive light.

Six days ago, the Alligator, along with other local and national outlets, reported that police arrested UF Student Body President-elect Smith Meyers in Key West after police said he drunkenly knocked over two Harley-Davidson motorcycles during Spring Break. An arresting officer said he was so drunk he didn’t even know he was in Key West. He was jailed and released after posting a $328 bail.

By then, Meyers’ name had made headlines in publications as far reaching as the New York Post and the Associated Press.

Where was Meyers during all of this?

For five days, he and Impact Party’s spokesperson ignored repeated calls from multiple Alligator reporters, unwilling to answer questions. Instead, Sunday evening we received statements from Meyers and current Student Body President Susan Webster, which appeared insincere and contradictory. In Webster’s statement, for example, she calls Meyers’ actions uncharacteristic before lampooning the media for reporting on the details of his arrest, which she says are “still being determined.”

In Meyers’ statement, he says he recognizes he must “work to earn back the trust of those around me,” and he promises to be “as transparent as possible” as his case continues.

But how, we wonder, can he do that when he ignores his constituents for five days before releasing a statement? How can he expect to gain public trust when he refuses to answer a single question from those he represents?

Webster was clear in her statement when she said Meyers’ position in Student Government would not be called into question following this arrest.

We at the Alligator believe Meyers should have done more to take responsibility for his actions. Instead of immediately ad- dressing the Student Body during the time following his arrest, he did nothing. We can only imagine he and Impact were doing damage control, waiting until the very end of Spring Break to release a statement.

Why did Meyers’ arrest make such an impact? As the next UF Student Body president, Meyers is in line to help oversee a more than $20 million Student Government budget, along with taking the only student position on the UF Board of Trustees. As a trustee, he would be charged with representing students to the governing body of UF.

No one forced the position upon Meyers. We can only infer it was what he wanted when he chose to run for Student Body president. He knew going in he would take it, as he ran unopposed.

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This story deserved to be covered, not because we seek to sensationalize any incident but because, as with any elected official, be it at a university, local, state or national level, we believe those elected are accountable to the people they represent. Meyers, who campaigned on the motto “Character that counts,” made the decision to represent more than 50,000 students when he ran for arguably the highest position in UF SG.

If Meyers wants to earn the Student Body’s respect, he needs to start by respecting us. If Meyers wants to be transparent, he needs to start by answering our questions.

We can only hope he starts now.

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