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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Gator Party, Change Party talk platforms in Student Government debate

Some party platforms include points that could violate SG codes

Student government executive ticket candidates for Change Party and Gator Party prepare for their opening speeches at the Reitz Union Rion Ballroom on Tuesday, Feb. 15.
Student government executive ticket candidates for Change Party and Gator Party prepare for their opening speeches at the Reitz Union Rion Ballroom on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

The executive tickets for the Gator and Change parties had an hour-long debate Tuesday.

Candidates defended platform points and examined opponents’ initiatives concerning legislation and governing codes.

On the right side of the Rion Ballroom stage sat the Gator Party’s executive ticket: Student Body Presidential Candidate Lauren Lemasters, Vice Presidential Candidate Daniel Badell, and Treasurer Candidate Sierra Kantamneni. 

To the left sat the Change Party’s ticket: Student Body Presidential Candidate Gabrielle Adekunle, Vice Presidential Candidate Dayanna Peek and Treasurer Candidate Kenya Warner. 

About 75 audience members including students and candidates’ families sat in front of the party that they supported. The audience cheered as candidates entered and exited the stage but were asked to hold their applause during the debate.

SG faculty member Jerome Scott II wrote twelve questions that were inaccessible to both parties until the debate, said Supervisor of Elections Alexandra Stedman. Marna Weston, a 1994 UF alum, moderated, allowing each party to respond to six questions. 

“I feel like I got to use my voice,” Kantamneni said, “I feel like I got to defend ourself and our administration and our platform because we believe in each other, and we believe in the platform.”

Parties discussed platform points including on-campus resources like mental health and sexual assault prevention, blue lights and efforts for diversity and inclusion. 

Both parties said they considered the debate to be successful and highlighted opponents’ platform points that were seemingly impossible, like the Gator Party’s plans to put menstrual products in dorms. The Change party cited Code 808.12 which prevents SG-funded organizations from passing out single-use items, which would include these products.

The Gator Party also lists the installation of ice machines in dorm buildings as one of its goals. However, Change Party VP candidate Peek said they were told by housing officials that ice machines could be a health code violation. 

Gator party declined to comment on the 800 codes and the platform point about menstrual products. 

Other points, like the Change Party’s initiative to increase Later Gator bus services and Gator Party’s plan for a graduate bus route, did not explicitly address challenges like pandemic-related shortages in transportation. 

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The final question of the debate asked both parties to identify a point of the opposing party’s platform they supported. The Gator Party representatives voiced support for the Change Party’s initiatives toward reducing food insecurity. The Change Party identified the Gator Party’s sexual health platform point as a point of consensus. 

Controversial topics included representation in the Senate, diversity and inclusion efforts, freedom of speech and SG’s funding tool Docutraq, often described as outdated.

“The words that they're using to criticize us are the words that are just reflected back to them with a mirror,” said Adekunle. 

Jacob Fazio is a 20-year-old member of SG and knows candidates running for the executive positions. 

“I just wanted to come and observe,” Fazio said. “It's kind of your civic duty to observe the debate every time.” 

Students can vote for 50 Senators and the Student Body president, vice president and treasurer in eight on-campus polling places Feb. 22 and Feb. 23. 

Contact Maia Botek Follow her on Twitter @BotekMaia.

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Maia Botek

Maia Botek is a third-year journalism major and Spanish minor covering student government this semester. Maia is from South Florida and enjoys the beach, spending time with her friends and learning about the environment in her free time.

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