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Friday, December 08, 2023

A team of UF Student Government senators decided to speak out against sexual assault, but the resolution draft will have to wait for approval. 

The senators drafted the “Resolution Supporting ‘We Believe Survivors’ and Standing With Survivors of Sexual Assault” to support sexual assault survivors at UF after the announcement that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will teach a UF law class in Spring in light of his 1991 sexual misconduct allegations. 

Inspire Sen. Claudia Tio said the resolution was inspired by a Letter to the Editor in The Alligator submitted last Tuesday by We Believe Survivors, a group created by law students in response to Thomas’ class. 

A resolution is a written expression of opinion, which is not legally binding. Passing this resolution will take time because the new judiciary committee, which reviews and passes legislation to Senate for voting, hasn’t been established. 

Anita Hill, who formerly worked for Thomas at two government agencies, testified at his 1991 confirmation hearing that he sexually harassed her. 

Tio said the senators were also motivated to write the resolution as a result of the “jarring” results of the campus climate survey showing an increase in reports of assault on campus and the report of former UF professor Andrew Lotto’s resignation following a sexual misconduct Title IX investigation. 

“We really want to show sexual assault survivors that we stand with them,” she said. “I think it’s really important that Student Government speak up and act in support of survivors.” 

The authors, Senators Isabella Garcia, Matthew Diaz, Shawn Zimmer, Tio and Minority Party Leader Ben Lima are associated with Inspire Party but don’t believe this should be a partisan issue, Tio said. 

“Even if this resolution isn’t passed, we’re going to collaborate with administration, Student Government and different student groups to make sure that survivors have the resources to succeed,” she said. 

UF’s resources for sexual assault victims includes the Title IX office, the Counseling and Wellness Center and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Sophia Serrao, a 24-year-old UF second-year law student and member of We Believe Survivors, said she hopes the resolution affects change in resources for survivors and increases awareness of sexual assault on campus. 

“We hope that the resolution will show that there’s more to be done,” Serrao said.

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