With a key party absent from the boxing ring, Inspire Party and independent UF Student Government candidates strapped on their gloves Monday night.
Inspire spent part of the night dodging jabs from independent candidates.
Gator Party sat in the sidelines.
Representatives of Inspire Party and independent candidates discussed their goals for the Fall during the debate. There are 45 Inspire, 50 Gator and five independent candidates running for 50 open Senate seats, according to the elections candidate list. Elections started yesterday and continued from 8:30a.m. to 8:30p.m.
While Inspire, the minority party, made a case for its platform, independent candidates hurled accusations of dishonesty. Audience members snickered and gasped as candidates one-upped each other.
Meanwhile, Gator Party was nowhere to be found on stage. SG’s newly founded party did not send representatives to debate. But a man who did not identify himself, wearing a Gator Party T-shirt walked into the room before the debate began.
“I’m just here to spectate,” he told the room when he walked in.
Gator did not respond to The Alligator’s requests to discuss its platform or why its candidates did not speak at the debate.
The debate proceeded with opening statements from candidates, student-submitted questions and ended with closing statements. Candidates discussed hot-topic issues including blue lights, transparency within SG and First Amendment rights on campus.
The blue light fight continues
Inspire President Zachary Amrose addressed the party’s bill to get blue light emergency telephones installed on Fraternity Row, so students can immediately call police in an emergency. These blue lights were designed to help prevent sexual assault.
“I did not expect this to be a contentious issue,” Amrose said. “Who would be against sexual assault prevention?”
Alfredo Ortiz, independent District D candidate, said in his opening statement he felt uncomfortable when Inspire Party “tried to claim credit” for the blue lights protest. Inspire Party brought the issue of blue lights to Senate in the Spring, but Ortiz was part of a group of students who organized the protest last Tuesday.
“They did bring the issue to light and we’re inherently grateful for that,” Ortiz said. “However, after the resolution failed, it didn’t really go anywhere. Nothing really happened.”
Inspire and independent candidates emphasized that installing blue lights on Frat Row is among their top priorities.
Mark Merwitzer, independent District A candidate, discussed his attempt to pass a bill for new transparency codes. Merwitzer said it’s absurd that SG has more money and power than some local governments but not the same amount of transparency laws.
“I think we need to advocate outside of Senate and not go to the place where ideas go to die,” Merwitzer said.
Christopher Stansel, independent District C candidate, said SG should host more public events and put ides on the table democratically to improve transparency.
“This all boils down to students don’t have an interest in Student Government because they think Student Government is corrupt no matter what they do,” Stansel said.
Protecting free speech
Candidates were asked how they will protect students’ free speech and from abuse in light of past controversial speakers, including white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Amrose said Inspire Party led a movement to ensure that students had the opportunity to stay home if they felt uncomfortable while Spencer was on campus.
Stansel said freedom of speech needs to be promoted on a college campus more than anywhere else.
“If your definition of free speech is hate speech, then, honestly, f*** your hate speech,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to stand for a Top 10 public university giving a platform to a neo-Nazi. It wouldn’t have happened under my watch.”
Candidates wrapped up with statements on how they’d operate SG.
Inspire campaign manager Ashley Grabowski discussed the difference between Inspire and Gator Party.
“You need to pay attention to party candidates,” Grabowski said. “Not just what they say, but what they do.”
Stansel said there is no monopoly on the right way to run things in SG.
“This vision isn’t going to come from Inspire,” Merwitzer said. “It’s going to come from you all in the audience who are doing the groundwork.”
Contact Emma McAvoy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaMcAvoy1.
Inspire President Zachary Amrose (right) speaks at the debate Monday night. To his left sits Ashley Grabowski, former Inspire Senator and current Inspire Party campaign manager.