A Student Government party that fell apart in Spring is back with the same leader. Two new parties will appear for the first time on the SG ballot.
Progressive Party, Change Party and Union Party registered for the Fall election on Friday. The current Senate majority and executive board is Gator party and the Senate minority is Inspire party.
Many party members jumped ship in the Spring when transphobic remarks from Alfredo Ortiz, Progressive Party president, were leaked. He re-registered his party Friday afternoon alongside Mark Merwitzer as Treasurer and Vice President.
In last Spring’s election, Ortiz created the Progressive Party and attempted to run for Student Body President. After his transphobic comments calling gender dysphoria an illness were leaked, members left his party and he withdrew his candidacy.
Some former Progressive Party members registered the Union Party for this Fall election with a new vision for UF SG. The new party was registered Friday with former Progressive members Branden Reis, Jackson McMillan and Ethan Lomio as party president, party treasurer and campaign manager, respectively.
After the audio was leaked, Ortiz said he was playing devil’s advocate in an attempt to prepare his running mate for arguing the party’s pro-LGBTQ platform, or set of goals. He told The Alligator in September the audio leak was a political move to try and discredit his candidacy.
The Progressive Party’s Spring and Fall platform includes training university health care professionals on LGBTQ+ issues and adding more unisex bathrooms on campus.
“The passion began with Progressive collapsing in on itself,” Reis said. “We didn't want the promise that we made to the Student Body to fade away.”
Union has many of the members who left the controversial Progressive party in Spring, but Reis said it is not a rebranding.
“We tried to salvage the party but we couldn't,” Reis said. “We're going to move forward with a new party without these problematic figures and just focus on the students first.”
Independent senators Colin Solomon (Keys Complex) and Ryan Wilder (District C) registered Change Party Friday morning for the upcoming Fall election.
Wilder and Solomon said Change Party was founded on pillars of equity, social justice and representation.
“Straight white cisgender men, you’ve been in power for quite a bit of time. It's time to make way for people of color, sexual identity minorities and gender minorities,” Solomon said.
Mallika Jain is treasurer for Change Party, Solomon is the president and Wilder is in charge of digital marketing, Wilder said.
The Progressive party released their first campaign materials, a campaign video and their platform, Friday after registering.
“Our party threatens the powers that be, both in the system and in the independent movement,” Ortiz said in the Facebook campaign video. “[We] advocate for a multi-party system that empowers the student body to represent themselves.”
Progressive Party will run on a platform of these goals:
Defunding the University Police Department
Sanctioning landlords who don’t provide rent relief
Giving students more rent relief aid from SG
Requiring LGBTQ issue training for UF health care officials
Adding unisex bathrooms on campus and halting UF building projects that don’t include unisex bathrooms
Boycotting unethical and unsustainable food sources on campus
Combating inequality at UF
Demanding workers rights for UF’s Other Personnel Service employees
“In our old platform, we had some points about race. We had been trying to have these conversations since before what happened with George Floyd,” he said, referencing the death of Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police in May. “Our platform is more relevant now than it was then.”
Solomon and Wilder began formatting ideas for Change in late summer, Solomon said. The party will advocate for any unlistened to or marginalized group at UF, he added.
“This is kind of an unspoken goal of the party, but we're hopefully planning on running without a single straight, white man,” he said.
Here are some of the things Solomon said he wants the Change to accomplish:
Adding Blue Lights to campus
Renaming buildings after women, people of color and people who fought for queer equity at UF
Expanding reporting options and training for sexual assault
Allowing online voting
Ending nepotism and increasing transparency in SG
Building up UF’s sustainability initiatives and creating a Green New Deal equivalent in SG
Increasing gender-inclusive language
Meeting the list of demands BSU has made to the UF
Solomon also said he wanted to create space for marginalized groups in SG. The fact there are only two Muslim senators is a problem, he said.
“We need to be reaching out to campus organizations like the Islam on Campus to get people involved in government,” he said.
Solomon said he and Wilder created Change in response to what they saw as social justice failures in SG and UF.
Solomon said the July 24 indefinite postponing of a resolution that would have urged UF to immediately end the university’s use of inmate labor by the Judiciary Committee was one of these instances.
“They didn't say they were against slavery,” he said. “But they want to pretend and post on their Facebook pages about how Black lives matter.”
Solomon said the appointment of Branden Pearson as Internal Affairs Agency Head on June 9 was another instance. At Pearson’s appointment hearing, Solomon urged Senate to not approve the former agency head because of homophobic comments Solomon alleged Pearson made.
Pearson left his position week after his appointment after Solomon shared Pearson’s social media posts containing racist slurs.
“Anyone who is a victim of marginalization should not have to fear their government officials,” Solomon said. “Anyone who has experiences with that should be believed.”
Union Party’s platform hasn’t yet been formed and does not have a specific date of release, Reis said. The party will be reaching out to students and student organizations to develop a platform based around the issues they care about, he added.
“Students don't care about whether or not we're going to get football tickets on our phone,” Reis said. “We care about whether or not the student organization has been received funding, we care about whether or not campus sexual assault is going to be handled.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Branden Pearson's name and to reflect that Pearson has not left UF. A previous version of this article reported otherwise.
Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.