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Monday, November 29, 2021

Goodbye column: My biggest regret at UF

The Alligator will be missed

As a person deeply interested in public service, it is no wonder that I gravitated toward the fields of journalism and politics.

I spent many of my years fighting the good fight in UF Student Government, and it was both immensely rewarding and frustratingly Sisyphean.

For those unfamiliar with SG at UF, it is not exactly a wholesome place. It’s where wannabe politicos try to cut their teeth, and the frat boy with the best smile gets to be king. 

It was once thought you had to be involved in SG (and by extension Blue Key) to be involved in politics, but those sentiments are from a time when UF was the only good school in the state and thus had educated alumni to flood the statehouse with.

Over the decades, other schools in Florida got better and increased the size of their alumni caucuses while UF’s Gator Caucus shrank. The governor's office is now held by an Ivy League alumnus while the previous three governors aren’t even native Floridians. UF’s domination of state politics is not what it used to be. The benefits of being part of Blue Key are now on par with being enrolled in the Circle K Easy Rewards loyalty program.

As for federal politics, the only relevant UF graduate from this millennium is Katie Miller, whose only claims to fame are (1) being someone who could love white nationalist Stephen Miller and (2) testing positive for COVID-19 while working as Vice President Mike Pence’s spokesperson. Not a good look.

As you may guess, my opinion of most of the lackeys in SG is not high. A third of them don’t realize they are being tokenized for the sake of racial diversity. Another third are well-intentioned but don’t know how to get things done. The last third are either evil, unintelligent or both.

The thought of working to make my community a better place kept me involved, despite my lackluster colleagues and even long after I lost the race for Student Body President in my junior year. However, as my final semester of college approached, I wondered if there was a more wholesome way to spend my time.

I was banished from the news-side of The Alligator the moment I joined SG. However, the Opinions section was in need of an editor and I was more than happy to give public service through journalism a shot. 

As I sat through the Zoom interview for the position, I wondered how different of a person I would have grown to be had I stuck with The Alligator for the last four years instead of SG.

These past few months, I have been surrounded by some of the brightest, most persistent minds I have ever encountered. Never have I seen a group of people so selflessly invested in the greater good of the community. Always doing the right things for the right reasons and speaking truth to power, my colleagues at The Alligator couldn’t be any more different from my former colleagues in SG.

The people in The Alligator are actually people who you’d want to be friends with. With a culture of excellence and staff of the highest caliber, our newsroom is filled with people who you would want to surround yourself with in order to become the best version of yourself.

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I’m grateful for my experiences in SG and don’t regret joining. However, my biggest regret during my time at UF is not spending more time with The Independent Florida Alligator and the wonderful people on its staff.

To the Gainesville community: Support local journalism. The Alligator is truly a gift to Gainesville.

To my colleagues at The Alligator: I am happy and grateful to have been able to spend my last semester of college with such genuinely good people. Never change.

To my former colleagues in SG: Make sure to send me a postcard when you finally land in federal prison.

Zachariah Chou was opinions editor of The Independent Florida Alligator.

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