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Thursday, June 01, 2023

Minority Party members are losing representation in Student Government after the Gator Party won the executive ticket, which includes the Student Body president, vice president and treasurer positions. Gator also gained a supermajority in Senate, holding about 80 of the 100 seats.

According to the Senate roster, minority parties Change and Inspire, Independent candidates and members not specifying party affiliation now collectively hold about 16 total seats. The remaining five are still empty. It is unclear exactly how many seats Gator and other parties hold because the Senate roster does not have an updated count of each party.

On Zoom Tuesday night, Senate elected former Judiciary Chair Franco Luis (Gator, District B) and former Majority Party Leader Blake Robinson (Gator, Sophomore) to be the next Senate President and Senate President Pro-Tempore, respectively. Senate also unanimously ratified the Spring election results.

Since the beginning of 2020, Luis has written ten legislative pieces and sponsored five. Robinson has written four and sponsored four. 

The Change Party currently holds five seats in Senate. According to the Senate’s Rules and Procedures, a party needs to hold a minimum of eight seats to be considered a party in Senate and gain representation in the Replacement and Agenda Committee.

The committee consists of the Senate Pro-Tempore, Senate President, party leaders, and two members-at-large. Together, they are responsible for interviewing and nominating candidates to fill empty Senate seats after an elected Senator drops out, graduates or is forced to leave the position for any reason. Now, Change has no say in who’s selected as replacement senators.

According to election records, this is the first time since 2017 a party has a supermajority so strong that the minority party doesn’t meet the requirements to be classified as an official party in Senate. 

Senate also elected Senator Aaron Arriaga (Gator, District C) and Senator Catherine Giordano (Gator, District A) as the members-at-large on the Replacement and Agenda Committee. 

The minority party will have no voice in the qualification process of applicants interviewing to fill a Senate seat, as all interviews and deliberations to nominate a candidate will be conducted entirely by Gator members.

“I do believe it is important to reach out to both sides of the political spectrum,” Luis said during Tuesday evening’s meeting. “I am looking forward to working with all Senators on any sort of legislation they want.”

Luis said his main project will be the implementation of Gator Service Days. These would take place every first Monday of the month to give students the opportunity to expand their service initiatives beyond UF. 

He said he plans to partner with local organizations to give back to the Gainesville community.These events would range from feeding the homeless, to writing cards for children and frontline workers at UF Health Shands Hospital. 

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He said he wants to bring respected members of the Gainesville community to speak to the university Senate and bring awareness of the community beyond UF.

“I believe that it is very important to have a diverse group of thoughts being spoken at our university and hope this will open the minds of many by providing different perspectives to various issues,” he said.

Senator Zachery Utt (Inspire, Murphree) presented an impeachment request in the meeting against the Election Commission Chair Ryan Wiele. He blamed Wiele for the 40% decrease in voter turnout compared to last Spring, saying Wiele suppressed the vote of students by decreasing the number of polling locations and not including early voting in the Spring election special rules.

The request was denied because the Election Commission Chair is not an impeachable position under the Student Body Constitution.

Tuesday night also gave some Senators whose terms are ending a chance to say goodbyes to the chamber for the last time before the newly elected Senators take over their respective positions.

During senate, some Senators got emotional remembering special moments and experiences in Senate. They thanked mentors and mentees for the good times, while others shared their frustrations with the rulings and procedures of Senate.

During her goodbye speech Tuesday, Senator Monica Lea (Inspire, Graduate) referred back to failed resolutions, such as onen summer advocating for civil rights and asking UF to cut ties with organizations using slave labor . She also noted her concerns regarding voter suppression and condemned the Elections Commission ruling of in-person voting procedures during a pandemic and decision to not have early voting. 

"The actions that have been taken regarding the safety of students and the conduct of a fair election have been incompetent at best and malicious at worst," she said.

Lea also condemned SG’s lack of professionalism in working and communicating with Senators from opposing parties. She shared her frustration with majority party members who often don’t respond to emails.

“You don’t just wear business casual or a suit and that makes you a professional. It’s more than that,” she said. “If you can’t act and collaborate bipartisanly, I question if that's professional.”

Former Senate President Pro-Tempore Gabi Zlatanoff shared some of her favorite memories from her three years in Senate, including long nights spent working with friends on Senate applications and ordering water breaks during long Senate meetings.

Before becoming Senate President Pro-Tempore, Zlatanoff served as Majority Party Leader. Her successor, Robinson, will also be following her steps into the Pro-Tempore position after completing his term as Majority Party Leader. 

“You genuinely just set the bar so high for yourself, and I don't know how, but you meet it and surpass it in every way,” she said about Robinson. “I know you are going to go so far, and I am excited to see you do it.”

Former Senate President and Student Body President-elect Cooper Brown brought some smiles to the Zoom call by distributing paper plate awards to Senators before concluding his speech. Awards included superlatives like “most likely to slide in your Zoom DMs” and “queen of the tea.”

Brown left a few final pieces of advice to incoming Senators: never forget why you decided to join Senate; the opponent party is not your enemy; and have fun.

“As one chapter comes to a close, another one is opening. You all know I am not going anywhere, and I am thrilled to hit the ground running as your next Student Body President,” he said. “For the last time: clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

Contact Carolina Ilvento at Follow her on Twitter @CarolinaIlvento.

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Carolina Ilvento

Carolina is a second-year journalism major with a minor in sustainability. In the past, she covered stories and events for WUFT, and she is now reporting on Student Government for The Alligator. Carolina loves to do yoga and go to the beach whenever she isn't writing.

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