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Thursday, January 20, 2022

It is no secret that our Student Government’s majority party likes to tout its close ties to Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Remember when our former Student Body President Smith Meyers smiling mugshot (not the literal one) appeared in a brochure for Turning Point USA on a page that talked about "running popular, Greek candidates" to build "an infrastructure of conservative, pro-Israel, pro-free market students?" Though Meyers hit every box (except “popular”), he denied taking any dirty money.

This week, I would like to talk about an anti-Semitism resolution that almost passed in Senate and all the behind the scenes shenanigans that highlight the disfunction of majority party senators.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Senator Zachary Amrose as well as some other Jewish senators took the time to write a comprehensive “Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism” that was sent to the Senate Judiciary committee in early April. The committee failed the resolution citing reasons such as not having enough sponsors from the community (which is a dubious reason to fail legislation based off of the set criteria they are supposed to evaluate legislation off of, but as we all know, no one cares about the rules in SG). Amrose decided to work on getting more sponsors after that meeting.

“Magically,” a “Resolution Standing Against Anti-Semitism” with completely different authors, this time from the majority party, was sent to the Judiciary committee not too soon after. The fact that it was Passover when the original authors found that their resolution had been ripped off didn’t make it any better. The new resolution contained not only phrases (and errant punctuation) directly lifted from the original resolution, but also language that was obviously similar to the original resolution but altered a little so it wasn’t a direct copy and paste.

According to Amrose, it also appears that during the committee hearing for the second resolution, one of the authors admitted that she had changed up the old resolution to create the new one.

Without much success talking to the majority party authors, Amrose had me send a document with all the instances of plagiarism as well as some other details to the full Senate. The Senate has an email list, but those who control it haven’t always been very forthcoming with letting emails through, so I had gone ahead and manually compiled the emails of everyone.

During public debate at the next Senate meeting, some of the authors aired their grievances against the majority party senators. So did I. I talked about how plagiarism has unfortunately been rather common in my experience with Student Government. I talked about how if the majority wants to claim it is being bipartisan angels, it shouldn’t be stealing the language of minority party legislation, passing it off as their own and then excluding us as authors.

It was actually at this point that I made a mental note to write a column series about all the plagiarism-related wrongdoing I had seen in my time in the Senate, so that’s why I find it fitting to finish of the series with this story. This is not to say that this is the last instance of plagiarism I can talk about (not even close), but I do want to move on to talking about other areas of malfeasance and misfeasance in SG.

There was no denying the majority party looked horrible when it was called out that meeting; there really wasn’t much of a defense it could put up. The Majority Party Leader at the time moved to table the resolution back to the Judiciary committee where it was procedurally withdrawn between the spring and summer semester.

I think it’s a little sad that between a group of actually Jewish people and Christians who align themselves with AIPAC (kinda weird but alright) that we couldn’t even pass an anti-Semitism resolution because of unprofessionalism and disrespect.

But is anyone really surprised?

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

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