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Saturday, February 27, 2021

What happened in UF Student Government this Fall?

Socially-distanced SG elections, virtual Accent events, new Senate rules in Fall

UF Student Government had virtual events, in-person elections and sweeping UF Senate rule changes throughout the Fall.

SG passed rule changes that limited virtual meetings and legislation authoring under a Gator Party supermajority. Gator Party authored and passed the legislation with a supermajority of Senate seats. 

SG also held Senate elections in person with new precautions and safety measures and spent nearly a quarter-million dollars virtually hosting famous guests for the digitally remote Accent Speakers Bureau.

These are the elections and events SG held over Fall:

SG polls during a pandemic

About 6,100 students voted for 50 UF Senate seats in the Fall elections Oct. 6 and 7, about  3,000 less than Fall 2019 SG elections.

UF Supervisor of Elections Hayley Price created a new early voting option and voting accommodations for students who couldn’t go to the polls in person. Absentee ballots were also used more than usual in Fall, though some students never received theirs

Gator Party dominated the elections, gaining a supermajority of 75 out of 100 Senate seats. The majority party won out against three new parties that were created during the Fall election cycle. All three losing parties, Progressive Party, Change Party and Union Party, said they would continue fighting for seats in Spring.

The Supervisor of Elections did not respond to questions about if early voting, voting accommodations or online options for candidates would be available in Spring.

Online voting was a contested issue this election. It has been illegal in SG since 2006, when the UF Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Candidates petitioned UFSC and UF Provost Joseph Glover to implement online voting this Fall. The attempts failed, but failed candidates and Inspire Sen. Zachery Utt said they would continue to fight for online voting.

In Spring, SG will vote for a new executive cabinet, the president, vice president and treasurer and 50 new senators. 

Senate rules got a makeover

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Before closing out the Fall semester, the Senate renovated its rules and procedures.

The new rules banned non-SG students from writing or sponsoring SG legislation and required students to register for public comment 19 hours before the Senate begins. They also give the Senate president more power over ending debate and controlling Senate meetings.

The rules also require the Senate to meet virtually only in the case of a national, state or local state of emergency. Florida’s state of emergency ends Jan. 2

These changes faced heavy opposition from the minority party, Inspire Party, but ended up passing with 52-13 votes. 

Inspire plans to continue its opposition of the changes by challenging the virtual Senate rule in the Supreme Court, Minority Leader Brianne Seaberg wrote in a text message.

Accent hosted big names on small screens

Over Fall, Accent Speakers Bureau hosted five virtual events over Zoom, including Anita Hill, Malala Yousafzai and Rob Riggle, and paid speakers a total of $230,000 in student fees for about five hours of screen time.

Accent hopes to move some events in person again and bring the speakers to campus in Spring, chair Steven Wolf announced during UF Senate Dec. 1.

Wolf did not answer questions about how these plans are being developed.

“We will not go forward with any of those plans without coordinating with the university and getting approval from health officials," he said.

Contact Lianna at lhubbard@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @HubbardLianna.

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Lianna Hubbard

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.


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