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Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Wow, someone did something horrible in Student Government; we all sure haven’t heard of that one before, have we?

Much like in other legislative entities, SG Senators have the ability to serve on committees. Unlike in the professional world, not everyone gets to serve on a committee, though, since the majority party isn’t interested in giving everyone a seat at the table and only cares about boosting up particular individuals.

Some committees are more important than others. The Budget and Appropriations committee truly gets to own the coveted resume line of playing around with $21 million, while the Rules and Ethics committee typically is stuck reading Senators’ absence excuse forms. That’s why I give more scrutiny to those appointed to the budget committee than others.

Back in March, Senator Audrey Wikan applied for the budget committee listing "Florida Legislature District 31 Secretary" from April to August 2018 on her resume. Underneath the title was a single bullet point that curtly stated: "District Secretary to House Member Jennifer Sullivan." 

Looking back, I suppose that was red flag No. 1, though it could have easily just been characterized as “sloppy” at the time. Had this poor girl actually fudged her resume better, she would have probably passed our judgment, but nay — we still thought she was unqualified after reading her fishy resume. After the Replacement and Agenda Committee approved her nomination, the minority party decided to object to their recommendation of her to the budget committee.

Anyway, this poor girl goes up in front of the Senate and cites, as her number one qualification, her experience as district secretary. She also claimed to have been her school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter treasurer and had to explain that the reason she didn’t include the experience in her resume was because she “simply ran out of room.”

In questioning, we pressed her on her time as district secretary, and she started to crack a little, mentioning it was “really an aide position.” Uh-oh. Then, in the first round of pro-con debate, Minority Party Leader Ashley Grabowski called Wikan’s bluff, saying, "I do not believe you are solely responsible for managing that budget," before going off on Wikan for misrepresenting her qualifications. We didn’t know what we know now, but Grabowski was surely onto something.

The majority party vigorously defended Wikan. Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Cooper Brown hit us with the “I just want to point out that I think it’s unfair to kind of say what her job was as district secretary” before going off to talk as if he actually knew what Wikan was doing in the job. Judiciary Committee Chairman Will Sandifer hit us with, “I find it incredibly disrespectful to call Senator Wikan a liar about her qualifications previously serving as uh district secretary.”

Now, notice Grabowski didn’t actually call Wikan a liar; Sandifer went for the “strawman” logical fallacy and ended up being the first person to use the word “liar” in relation to Wikan. I mean, given Wikan actually was lying, I guess we sort of won this one.

Anyhow, the minority party didn’t have enough votes to block the confirmation (as usual), and Wikan’s recommendation to the budget committee made it through the Senate.

Usually that’s the end of the story with most unqualified applicants, but Wikan unfortunately (for her) served in a position in the Florida legislature, which meant the records from her time of employment are subject to public records requests. Two days later, I shot off a request to the Florida House of Representatives, and so I waited.

And so you’ll wait too... until next week!

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

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