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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Now I know I have mentioned Student Body President Michael Murphy’s borderline plagiarized inaugural speech in my last couple of columns, but I feel like I should probably do my due diligence and write about other instances of plagiarism that have happened in the past.

You see, I guess at this point we could say there’s a bit of a nasty culture in UF’s Student Government where people either suppress their sense of morality for the sake of political advancement or are morally defective to begin with and are just having fun as sadists. Plagiarism is really among the least of the sins I’ve seen, but I think it’s fair game to do a series after Murphy’s… controversial speech.

I’m also happy to do a series since not too much is going on in SG. The Senate has not been able to reach quorum these days due to some incompetencies too extensive to put into words. We haven’t confirmed any executive appointments. The majority party’s code revisions that would have lowered the threshold for executive appointments from two-thirds to a simple majority also got vetoed by the outgoing Student Body president, so the Murphy Administration really is already at the dumpster fire stage of things, and we’re just sitting around warming our hands.

Come, pull up a chair to the dumpster fire, and let me tell you a story to pass the time.

Once upon a time, SG put closed captioning on their videos… and then they didn’t. Around two years ago, in a video featuring Smith "Motorcycle Pusher-Over" Meyers and Blake "Totally Not the Only Reason His Little Brother is President" Murphy, SG announced the opening of Newell Hall.

Someone commented: “This past year great strides for accessibility were made by providing captions on these videos. Already we're back to not having captions, and marginalizing students and visitors who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. It's distasteful. What needs to be done to get captions back?”

I saw that comment and upon further research, I found out that SG didn’t really have any accessibility measures codified. I wanted to change this, so I worked with a bipartisan group of Senators to create legislation that codified both the practice of providing closed captioning on videos as well as the practice of providing transcripts by default.

Unfortunately, the legislation got vetoed by the outgoing Student Body President Meyers for not being “flexible” enough. But before the original authors could re-submit the bill with the suggested changes, Senator Branden Pearson and another individual sent in a bill with the same title which contained much of the same language as our’s. None of the original authors were credited. No one told me this would be happening.

Where the bill differed was only in ways that made it worse. The bill’s mandate of accessibility had been watered down and now there was a reference to wanting to comply with “Title III of the American with Disabilities Act.” First, it’s supposed to be plural (“Americans”) and secondly, it references the wrong section of the ADA (it’s supposed to be Title II).

Now, the Senate Judiciary (probably) clearly caught on that it was probably a terrible case of plagiarism, so they changed the title (but forgot to change it later in the bill) and then added some of the original authors as sponsors (but didn’t fix the incorrect reference). To this day, the error exists in our administrative code.

Branden Pearson, I hope you’re happy—but please try to care a little more in the future as you try to get your name onto things.

Nowadays, our social media is generally better with closed captioning and marginally better with providing transcripts. When someone does screw up, I’m there. I like to remind them to add captions to their video and to add a link to a transcript. It’s a simple ask but one that means a lot to many people.

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Zachariah Chou is a UF political science junior. His column appears on Thursdays.

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