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Friday, September 29, 2023

Happy new year to everyone (except Student Government). To us, I wish an honest and transparent new year because I’m getting tired of some of the things I’ve seen come out of our current administration.

But hey, it’s a new year, so I wanted to use this week’s column to help clear the backlog of last year’s SG drama that I haven’t gotten a chance to address.

Something that I very much appreciate about SG is its participation in the Uber Safe Rides program. For those unfamiliar with it, it was a 50 percent discount for Uber rides from Wednesday to Saturday nights in a specific area around campus.

The program endured a little bit of controversy when the Chronicle of Higher Education published an exposé on the conservative group Turning Point USA’s purported meddling in student governments across the country.

While many people noticed our former Student Body president’s smiling face plastered across one of Turning Point USA’s promotional brochures in which they bragged about “commandeer[ing] the top office of Student Body president” at different prominent universities, fewer noticed the Chronicle identifying Uber Safe Rides as one of the common threads between the campaigns and student governments in question. Why Uber? Because I suppose it’s a pretty free-market sort of thing (with all of those related free-market faults we have come to love, naturally).

But it saves us money, so whatever, right? All was fine and dandy until October when I spotted an announcement on the usual UF Safe Rides page noting that the service had become so popular that it outgrew the funding originally budgeted for the program and the discount would be cut to 25 percent. Oh, the tragedy of the commons! Also noted was that the Student Traffic Court contributed an additional $92,000 toward the program in Fall as “we aggressively explore new funding sources and continue to provide this service for enrolled students.” I’m not quite sure who “we” is, but good luck.

I waited for someone, somewhere, to acknowledge it publicly, but it never happened. As with perhaps all bad news, I suppose SG likes to bury its head in the sand. It’s a shame; so many years of work went into getting the program up and running at UF and then it falters.

On another note, let’s talk about Student Body President Ian Green’s recent performance at the Board of Trustees meeting in December. I attended the Trustees meeting to see if Green would do anything regarding pushing any student initiatives; I don’t recall seeing much at all. Out of curiosity, I went and searched through all the published minutes to get a better sense of what he does during meetings to try to see if he has actually done much, but… yeah, I barely see his name past the attendance (or non-attendance) section.

Green was due to give an SG update, so I figured that I might as well make sure he didn’t say anything untruthful, and remarkably I didn’t notice anything that off. I did notice that he had passed around a handout to the other trustees. So, after the meeting, I went on over to the meeting table and took a photo of the handout to read later.

As it turns out, Green didn’t use all of his talking points. The second item on the handout highlighted the early voting location in the Reitz Union and, by name, credited the heads of the SG agencies. Um, what?

Now I know many journalists are hesitant to utilize the “L” word. I’ve made it crystal clear in past columns, however, that SG had little to nothing to do with the early voting site at the Reitz, so I think we’re really getting toward “lie” territory. I’m just a little unsettled about the thought of lying to (or at least misleading) the Trustees, but hey, it’s whatever, right?

If you’re on the Board of Trustees and reading this, happy new year to you, too!

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Zachariah Chou is a UF political science junior and Murphree Area Senator. His column normally appears on Fridays.

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