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Thursday, May 06, 2021

‘We’ve had enough.’: Students organize protest on Fraternity Drive

<p>A map of blue lights across UF campus.</p>

A map of blue lights across UF campus.

The distant dots of blue lights from emergency phones are supposed to help UF students feel safer when walking on campus alone at night. But on Fraternity Row, there are none. 

Now, a group of students and local activists are calling on UF leaders to make a change.

On Sept. 17, UF students Emily Hyden, Alfredo Ortiz, William Zelin and Mark Merwitzer are partnering with the Gainesville chapter of National Women’s Liberation to protest the lack of blue lights on Fraternity Row.

Blue Light Emergency Phones, commonly referred to as blue lights, are non-dial outdoor telephones that students can use to instantly reach University Police and share their location. Fraternity Row is the only place on campus without the units.

At the end of the Spring 2019 semester, SG failed to pass a resolution failed to pass a resolution that proposed adding blue lights across Fraternity Row. 

The demonstration is scheduled to be across the street from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house at 5 p.m., said Zelin, a 21-year-old Inspire Party senator and UF political science and statistics senior. 

Both students and scheduled speakers, who will be announced at a later date, will be given the chance to voice their concerns and share their stories with demonstrators. National Women’s Liberation will be hosting a sign-making night on Tuesday at 201 NE First St. in Suite 201.

All students involved in organizing the protest are addressing it from a nonpartisan stance, Zelin said. The majority of their frustration lies with the inaction of SG and UF administration as a whole, rather than one specific party.

The students organizing the protest did not reach out to SG parties for support, Zelin said. Although they are willing to accept support from affiliated members of these groups, it does not mean the demonstrators endorse their ideas.

Senate President Libby Shaw and Student Body President Michael Murphy could not be reached for comment. 

“We’re not trying to point fingers. This isn’t about what happened in the past,” Zelin said. “We’re trying to work in the here and now to get this addressed.”

The goal of the protest is to allow students to have a voice when it comes to their safety, said Hyden, a 20-year-old UF international studies junior. She felt compelled to act after seeing campus maps and hearing news about the resolution failing.

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“It isn’t just about raising awareness for sexual assault victims,” Hyden said. “It’s simply just student safety. What happens if you’re at a tailgate with your friend and she gets alcohol poisoning? What do you do then?”

Hyden is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority and lived in the house during the 2018-2019 school year. She said she didn’t feel comfortable walking home alone at night close to Fraternity Row without a blue light in sight.

“I always had to look over my shoulder,” she said. “That’s not OK.”

A map of blue lights across UF campus.

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