From a pornographic “Zoom bombing” to the short-lived formation of a controversial third party, a lot has happened in UF Student Government during Spring semester.
Here’s what you missed:
SG transitions online
The second online Senate meeting was “Zoom bombed” March 31 by hackers who shared their screens to show offensive images like swastikas and pornography. The hackers also wrote death threats and racial slurs in the chat before the meeting was called to an abrupt close.
Since then, UF has announced that a 13-year-old girl in Tennessee was one of the hackers behind the Senate interruption. The investigation is still ongoing and no charges have been filed.
Since moving its meetings online, SG has experienced a breakdown in communication, Senate President Kyle Garner, wrote in an email to The Alligator. Meetings, which are normally held weekly, have not been consistent, and senators have been unable to hear or vote on legislation.
“During the transition, there was an oversight in posting the required materials on the SG website for tonight's meeting,” Garner wrote in an email to senators prior to one meeting. “This is certainly something that will be fixed moving forward.”
Although senators didn’t hear or vote on legislation, they have debated and voted on Student Body President-elect Trevor Pope’s nominations for different positions within the executive branch. His nominations for Internal and External Affairs chairs, the Gators Going Green chair and two Supreme Court Justices, were not approved and await reconsideration.
Student Organizations vie for funding
Student organizations faced issues with funding in the past when Docutraq, the system that student organizations use to apply for funding, crashed. SG postponed applications following the crash. After more technical difficulties, SG began using Google forms to process applications.
It is unclear what caused the crash, Budget and Appropriations Chairwoman Samantha Girschick wrote in an email to The Alligator. Girschick said the crash will not affect student organizations’ abilities to receive funding moving forward.
SG began using Docutraq and providing funding on a first-come-first-served basis after Young Americans for Freedom at UF sued the university in late 2018 after they were denied funding for several conservative speakers.
Student organizations like the Black Student Union, the Asian American Student Union and the Pride Student Union protested the new system in Fall, saying that it is difficult to use. It also made events and co-sponsoring sub-organizations, smaller groups housed in the main organization, harder to fund.
The Progressive Party dissolves
But several days later, a recording containing transphobic remarks between Progressive’s candidates for Student Body President and Vice President was sent to The Alligator and the leaders of major student organizations like Pride Student Union and the Women’s Student Association. The remarks contradicted the party’s platform points that focused on LGBTQ+ issues.
After Young Democratic Socialists of America at UF posted the recording to its Facebook page, the entire executive ticket, excluding Student Body Presidential candidate Alfredo Ortiz, and many senators dropped out of the race and the party dissolved.
Gator sweeps election night
Gator party won its first executive ticket and Senate majority Feb. 19. This was the first time the party won an executive ticket since its creation in Fall 2019. Most of Gator’s senators were previously affiliated with Impact Party, the former majority party.
The win came after Damon Veras, Gator’s campaign coordinator, sent a message to the Hispanic Student Association’s GroupMe the day before polls opened saying that Tau Kappa Epsilon members would receive an incentive for voting.
It remains unclear what the incentive was.
Accent speakers and other cancellations
Accent Speakers Bureau postponed all speakers’ shows in response to COVID-19. The events, which featured Andrew Yang, Rob Riggle, Dave Portnoy, Cody Ko and Noel Miller, have not been rescheduled yet.
The SG Banquet, where the Student Body President is normally sworn in, was also cancelled, according to an email sent to The Alligator by Pope.
Though Pope was sworn into office online rather than at the banquet, he wrote that he is not disappointed. Instead, he said he wants to focus on the difficulties that students are facing because of COVID-19.
“My main priority is to advocate for students and to ameliorate their situation during these challenging times,” he wrote.
Meghan is a second-year UF English major. She is currently the university news editor, and in the past she’s been the SG reporter, a university general assignment reporter and a university news assistant. In her free time, she likes to read and eat sour candy.