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Friday, June 14, 2024

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Complacency benefits oppression, which I think makes Trevor Pope a beneficiary.

When I heard that Student Body President Trevor Pope was working to expand funding for the CARES Act to include students who previously couldn’t receive it, I was pleased. It helps create an even playing field for our international and DACA students. But the more I read, the more dismayed I was.

Any effort to extend funding is important and should be recognized, but this “new hope” we can graciously thank Pope for was asking the staffer of a senator for more money. Despite being unsure who would get additional funding if it even came, it appeared that he was being lauded as a hero for something that hasn’t even happened yet.

I have a problem with that narrative. Forty-one days ago I spoke in UF Student Government Senate’s public comment period about his nominee for Internal Affairs Agency Head using a homophobic slur to a personal friend of mine in the past.

Anxious and shaking, I repeated the phrase he used word for word, including the slur that is used against me and my community, to make sure everyone knew just how bigoted he was. The majority Gator Party caucus overwhelmingly approved him anyways.

So where was that hero when fellow senator Colin Solomon and I came forward about his Internal Affairs nominee using homophobic slurs? Well, he wasn’t asking for his resignation.

Where was that hero when concerned students emailed him over his unwillingness to remove that nominee? Sending almost completely copied and pasted identical emails to those students claiming he “heard their voice” (of which I have attached screenshots).

Where was that hero when screenshots surfaced of that same nominee using racist slurs? Not apologizing or even giving a statement. Instead, he deleted the only post he made on the matter.

And where was that hero when he was asked to listen to Black Student Union’s list of demands to make UF more inclusive and improve race relations in our own backyard? In a diversity and programming committee meeting saying that “diversity is much more encompassing than just our Black population at UF.”

Telling students with pronouns in your email signature that you hear their voice in nearly identical emails while not listening to the ones coming forward about the use of a homophobic slur is performative activism. I was asked to provide proof of a verbal altercation when I had nothing to gain by coming forward except anxiety and fear.

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Not actively advocating for BSU’s list of demands, and diminishing their importance in the process, is being complacent in their marginalization.

Why are we looking to him for hope when he did the bare minimum and can’t even issue an apology to our Black, queer, and Latinx students for the pain his nominee caused?

Where’s the hope for these communities that Pope won’t nominate another racist homophobe? It’s been 41 days, and we can’t even hope for a statement. In my opinion, it’s way too late.

This is why everyone needs to pay attention to politics, even on a scale as small as Student Government at UF. When people don’t pay attention to who they vote for and don’t advocate for marginalized communities, things like this happen and people get away with it. They’re even branded as “heroes.”

Ryan Wilder is a Student Senator (Independent, District C) at UF as well as the LGBTQ+ caucus co-leader in Senate.

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