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Thursday, October 21, 2021
<p>A map of blue lights across UF campus.</p>

A map of blue lights across UF campus.

One strip of land on UF’s campus has no controversial blue light poles. 

The lights are meant to be blue beacons of safety that call law enforcement at the push of a button. But without action from UF Student Government or UF administration, more than 100 protestors are expected to stand down the road from Fraternity Drive demanding for administration to install blue lights.

Students Emily Hyden, Alfredo Ortiz, William Zelin, Samantha Gildea and Mark Merwitzer and the Gainesville Women's Liberation announced the Protest for Blue Lights on Frat Row on Sept. 6.    

Here’s a breakdown of the roles administration, University Police, SG, Greek organizations and students play in the blue light debate. 

UF administration places blue lights, and UPD responds to calls 

Student safety is administration’s top concern, said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando.

UF installs blue lights on campus with the help of outside contractors, he said.

Mackintosh Joachim, the Inspire Party senator for District D, was at the forefront of a blue light installation at Graham Hall, which started in 2017 after black students in the area felt unsafe after white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at UF. 

“That’s when the long process to install a light began,” he said.

The light, installed in January, used funds from the SG reserve account.

According to public records obtained by The Alligator, the SG reserves account has $4.3 million as of Aug. 1. A blue light costs between $15,000 and $20,000, Joachim said.

The total cost of installation depends on the contractors, and the Graham light cost a total of $22,000.

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UPD spokesperson Maj. Brad Barber said  UPD Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick supports the protest. UPD recognizes the instant connection blue lights provide students, but the department suggests using the GATORSAFE app, which he said provides safety resources and communication with the police.

SG provides funds, voted no in Spring

SG serves as the Student Body’s voice, said Ashley Grabowski, Inspire Party campaign manager. She was the primary author of the so-called blue light bill, originally Student Senate Bill 2019-1061, and submitted it as a bill on March 22.

“The vast majority of students on campus may end up being ignored because the ‘official voice,’ the majority party, isn’t acting with their best interests,” Grabowski said.  

During an SG Judiciary Committee meeting on April 8, senators verbally opposed the suggested bill. Now-Gator Party President and then-Pro-Tempore Emily Dunson and Judiciary Committee Chair Will Sandifer voted against it. They said presidents of fraternities and sororities weren’t consulted before it was presented. The resolution failed. 

“It’s not taking into account all of the relevant actors in the situation,” Sandifer said during the committee meeting.

On Friday, the UF Interfraternity Council released a statement saying it is “not opposed” to blue lights anywhere on campus.

Dunson, who voted against the blue light bill when she was still affiliated with Impact Party, declined to directly comment after The Alligator sent her texts, calls and emails. 

Two weeks after the April Judiciary Committee meeting, Senate President Libby Shaw broke the tie when Senate voted to bring the bill up for discussion. She voted against the bill, despite original support, according to voting records. Shaw was a sponsor on the original bill. 

According to Alligator archives, when Shaw co-founded the Panhellenic Council’s Sister Support Ambassador Program, she said, “I know dozens of women who have been sexually assaulted in college, and that’s kind of where my passion came from.” 

After text messages, calls, emails and in-person communication, Shaw didn’t respond to inquiries about her voting record.

On July 27, the blue light resolution was redrafted by Inspire Party president Zachary Amrose, who sent a reserves transfer request for $25,000. As of Sunday, Amrose said he hadn’t heard back.

SG parties have a say 

Blue light expansion on campus is Inspire Party’s first point on their Fall 2019 platform. 

Amrose said the party supports the protest. When student organizers asked for support, he said Inspire joined the movement.

“Some people will say that this is not a political issue, but really, it is,” Amrose said.

When asked specific questions on its stance on the protest, Gator Party responded with an email it said represents the views of  Dunson, spokesperson Wynton White and treasurer Richard Doan.  

“Gator Party supports students’ rights to assemble and hopes that together we can work to make UF a campus where all students are safe,” the party wrote. 

Student Body President Michael Murphy, who is Impact-affiliated, submitted a Letter to the Editor in lieu of commenting to an Alligator reporter.

He wrote that additional blue lights are a “tremendous waste of student fees” and protest organizers are using scare tactics.

“Protestors should not let Student Government election season get the best of them,” Murphy wrote.

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Gainesville Chapter of the National Women’s Liberation Association is also an organizer of the protest, along the students. The Alligator previously reported differently.

A map of blue lights across UF campus.

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