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Friday, January 28, 2022

People often make a valid critique of my columns (and by extension, me) in saying that all I do is complain about things without actually doing anything.

As a public servant, I believe there is a balance to be struck in terms of making sure people are kept informed without having to listen to grandstanding. I suppose I’ve been relatively low-key on this front, as many of the things I work on are collaborative efforts. As long as the group gets credit, I’m happy. Even if no one knows I helped out. I’m not really in this line of work for the acclaim; I can sleep peacefully knowing that some aspect of UF is improved even without placing my name on a plaque somewhere.

But in light of the SG budget crisis, the need for transparency easily overrides whatever sentimental idealism I may feel. We need our leaders to be transparent about what is being done to help organizations that did not receive enough — or any — funding. I feel like the people in power have not been transparent at all.

As I mentioned last week, Senator Zachary Amrose and I wrote a bill to transfer $800,000 from SG’s reserves account to help support student groups. The money would be split evenly across the Fall and Spring semesters to make sure that there is enough funding for student organizations. Over a hundred organizations and two former Student Body Treasurers have signed on in support. A lot of my time these days has been spent trying to win over the hearts and minds of those who are a part of the current SG administration.

The people I have emailed include Student Body President Michael Murphy, Student Body Vice President Sarah Abraham, Student Body Treasurer Santiago Gutierrez, Senate President Libby Shaw, Senate President Pro Tempore Emily Dunson, Allocations Committee Chairwoman Sam Girschick and Budget & Appropriations Committee Chair Cooper Brown.

I’m still waiting to hear back from all of them except for Gutierrez, who, to his credit, not only invited me to come to his office hours, but also came down to listen to the student organizations who protested during the last Senate meeting.

One of the most frequent questions that I’ve received during this entire crisis is how I came up with the “$400,000 per semester”figure. Truthfully, I just made an educated guess. A commonly-asked follow-up question is whether the transfer would be enough money.

A couple days ago, I heard back from a public records request I put in. I received data on all the event and travel requests that were submitted for the Fall before requests were closed. The sum of all the pending and denied event and travel requests for the fall is $334,640.46. Our proposed reserves transfer would be more than enough.

I haven’t heard of any other short-term solutions from SG (though I’d sure like to). For now, this transfer is all we’ve got.

Zachariah Chou is a UF political science senior and serves as the Murphree Area Senator.

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