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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Student Government has always been a dumpster fire, and UF’s administrators have always been afraid to get their hands dirty while putting it out.

But here’s the thing about dumpster fires. If you don’t put them out, eventually the whole town is going to stink.

Divorce SG from the university committee selection process

Remember Branden Pearson? The N-word guy? Yeah, that made UF look real good didn’t it? You see, there were years of red flags ranging from plagiarism to bullying to identity-based comments to even the theft of voter data. Naturally, SG paid no attention to them since those bad actions were targeted at members of the minority party. They went on and rewarded Pearson for his bad behavior.

Within the Senate, they made him the Majority Party Leader, Judiciary Committee Chairman and placed him on the Replacement & Agenda Committee, Budget & Appropriations Committee and 800 Code Ad-Hoc Committee.

Notable was Pearson’s role on the 800 Code Ad-Hoc Committee, which created SG’s current student organization funding model—one that has left countless organizations, large and small, struggling for funding.

Remember how our cultural organizations had to turn to GoFundMe to fund their welcome assemblies? Yep, make sure to thank SG for that.

Now cronyism is of course not surprising, and I guess SG committees are not Tigert Hall’s concern, but what about university committees?

These committees advise administration in a variety of important areas. Unfortunately their selection process is contaminated by SG’s involvement in candidates’ appointment.

Pearson is still listed as a member of the Parking And Transportation Committee, Campus Student Housing Committee, Food Service Advisory Committee, University Curriculum Committee and of the J. Wayne Reitz Union Board Of Managers of which he serves as chair.

Pearson also served on multiple powerful “secret university committees.” These committees actually handle millions of dollars and are “unlisted.” Good luck finding much information about these committees online.

Pearson served on the Capital Improvement Trust Fund Committee, Local Fee Committee and as Chair of the Transportation Access Fee Committee. Given that these committees neither publish their minutes nor list their membership online, it’s hard to say to what extent he’s still involved.

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The point I’m trying to make here is that if UF cares about diversity, it should realize that having SG appoint one white dude to eight different university committees seats probably isn’t the most diverse move. If we’re going to go with the whole “seat at the table” metaphor here, if you want diverse perspectives, you probably shouldn’t let one guy take up eight seats.

No self-respecting Student Affairs administrator would allow such a ludicrous consolidation of power, which is exactly why they need to fully be in charge of the selection process. The solution is simple: Make sure SG plays no role whatsoever in the appointment process for university committees.

Oh and while we’re on the topic, Student Affairs also needs to fix the application website, which is currently down before the deadline to apply for university committees on July 3.

Institute top-down reforms to change the culture and the rules of SG

Dear administrators, Student Government doesn’t care about diversity. I mean you saw what happened this month. I’ve seen what’s been happening for four years.

I brought up the issue to a high-ranking administrator a couple years back, and while he agreed with some of the solutions I proposed, he mentioned that the main issue is that he believed that SG didn’t want to change for the better.

Now with all the scandals, lawsuits, and, frankly, the tossing out of the old vice president of Student Affairs who maintained a laissez faire approach to SG, I would like to broach the issue once again.

The General Counsel’s office already has its boot on SG’s neck to try to prevent any more lawsuits; why not try to increase the standard of SG’s conduct from the bare minimum of doing what’s legal to doing what promotes diversity? Might as well add another boot for SG to lick.

Back during our most recent Senate meeting on June 9, the one when we appointed Pearson as the Internal Affairs Agency Head, one Senator encouraged the Senate to pass legislation in light of the racial unrest of the county. He also encouraged the Senate president to create a diversity committee.

I found the Senator’s request really amusing. Every semester for at least the past two years, I have run for the position of Senate president. One of their powers is the ability to create ad-hoc committees and every time I’ve run, I have proposed an “Inclusion and Equity Ad-Hoc Committee.” Naturally, as part of the minority party, I have always been destined to lose those elections to an underwhelming white person from the majority party, and no one ever gave the idea any credence until this month.

So what did the Senate president do? Oh yeah, he canceled Senate meetings for the rest of the month. We typically cancel Senate meetings after scandals, but this incident in particular left a bitter taste in our mouths since we all had a lot of Black Lives Matter-related legislation we wanted to send in. No word on that diversity committee either.

There have been plenty of burnt-out and disillusioned minorities that have been chewed up and spit out of SG. With people like Pearson in power, SG has been a place that is resistant to any diversity-enhancing policy change. Who would want to stay in an environment like that?

However, on Student Affairs' side, all it takes for policy change is a willingness to clamp down on a place that has become both an endless source of headaches for our administration and a place where minorities aren’t particularly welcome. Our dumpster fire is your dumpster fire.

I know Student Affairs will act in its self interest. If not for us, do it for yourselves.

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

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