In UF Student Government, a new semester brings with it a new legislation season in which graduate students have had little to no say. The Graduate and Graduate Family Housing senate seats have remained vacant throughout the entire Fall semester and now leading into Spring.
Following the Fall 2021 elections, both the Graduate and Family Housing seats remained vacant. Seven total votes were cast for only write-in candidates.
All 10 senate seats set aside for graduate students are vacant. Without distinct representation, graduate students lack the legislative ability to address their concerns.
Senator Spencer Gorelick (Change, District D) is a graduate student but was not elected to specifically represent graduate students like himself. That, however, hasn’t stopped him from speaking about the lack of representation in the senate through public comment.
“It seems that grad students are often forgot about when it comes to a lot of measures taken by the university,” Gorelick said. “Even though we provide so much to this university as researchers, as teaching assistants and even as students and student leaders.”
From burnout to the planned demolition of Maguire Village and University Village South to potential rent hikes for on-campus housing to mental health and expensive graduate fees — graduate students are facing stress. But Gorelick said SG can help ease the weight of those burdens.
“SG can help a lot in that way, even if it's not doing anything concrete, also just the advocacy aspect of it,” he said. “Standing up and saying as student leaders, we're not going to accept this.”
Throughout the Fall semester, less than five graduate students applied. None of the applicants were chosen to fill those seats.
Majority Party Leader John Brinkman (Gator, Sophomore) argued that not a large enough number of students applied for a senate seat, making it difficult to compare them to their peers and be sure they’re qualified candidates.
“Personally, I don't want to give a Senate seat to just one person who comes in here. I would like to see multiple people apply,” Brinkman said in an Oct. 25 meeting. “I want very qualified people to come in here and be in Senate and be willing to work and make good change for their prospective college.”
Gorelick doesn’t agree.
“I think that's a completely ridiculous argument when you have a tenth of the Senate that remains unfilled,” he said.
Bryn Taylor, communications chair of the Graduate Assistants United labor union, believes that SG should fill the seats with qualified and motivated candidates, regardless of how many apply.
“You're not gonna get people knocking down your door for these positions. I mean, graduate students are swamped with stuff, Ph.Ds, families — things like that,” she said. “So I mean, we have a hard enough time getting people to be active with the union.”
Taylor doesn’t believe graduate students have a clear idea of what SG can do for them. She suggested better outreach, such as emails explaining what exactly representatives are working on.
“It's hard for me to want to get involved if I don't know where I fit in,” Taylor said.
Contact Allessandra at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ainzinna.
Allessandra is a third-year journalism major with a minor in English. In the past, she has covered local musicians and the cannabis industry. She is now the Student Government reporter for The Alligator. Allessandra paints and plays guitar in her free time.