The first UF Student Government Senate meeting of the Fall semester tackled Senate seat distribution and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, among three other pieces of legislation.
With 71 senators officially present, the chamber was filled with chatter as senators caught up before the meeting began.
Five bills were on the docket. Four of them — bills revising student organization fundraising accounts, recognizing the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline as a critical mental health resource, welcoming Heather White as the new vice president for student life and revising student organization fundraising accounts — passed unanimously.
The most contested bill of the night was the Senate Reapportionment Act of 2023, which defines the number of seats each sector of campus will be allotted within the Senate. The Agriculture and Life Sciences college would lose one Senate seat, as would the sophomore class. The graduate district would gain two seats.
As for geographic seats, District E and District A will merge, eliminating District E entirely and losing one seat all together. Meanwhile, Districts B and C will each gain one seat, and District D will remain the same.
The Senate is composed of 100 seats total, 50 of which are geographically-based. The other 50 seats represent different colleges.
During public comment, Jonathan Stephens, a Change party member, and Senator Joseph Andreoli, Change-Graduate, argued the legislation gave too few seats to the Agricultural and Life Sciences and Journalism and Communications colleges, and gave representation to the 32614 zip code Andreoli argued did not exist.
Stephens said he hoped the Senate would take into consideration the importance of “sticking close to history and staying true to the values,” citing how the university was founded on a land grant, which historically encouraged the school to study agriculture and botanical sciences.
He added he hoped the Senate would not dilute that history by removing an Agricultural and Life Sciences seat.
Judiciary chairman and author of the bill John Brinkman refuted Stephens and Andreoli’s points by showing the calculations that led to the outlined reapportionment, all based on university data, Brinkman said.
“You notice I can show you the numbers, which are the most important thing for creating a model that reinforces on the basis of population,” Brinkman said to the Senate. “It's really as equal as possible.”
Ultimately, the bill passed with one nay from Andreoli.
District A will now have 10 seats, while District B, C and D will continue to have eight, seven and 12, respectively. The remaining 13 seats are taken by on-campus housing.
The Senate also unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline as a campus mental health resource, which aims to increase the number of college students seeking help from the center, according to the bill’s author Senator Daniel DiBari, Gator-District A.
The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline transitioned to a three-digit number — 988 — in July as part of President Biden’s efforts to curb the national mental health crisis.
Other legislation approved included a bill adding the Senate sergeant-at-arms to the legislative exclusionary office, one welcoming Heather White as the new vice president for student life and one requiring student organizations to retain at least $50 in their revenue accounts to maintain their functioning status.
Senate meets every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Senate Chambers, located in the Reitz Student Union. These meetings are open to the general public.
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Alissa Gary is a second-year journalism major who's covering K-12 education for The Alligator. She has previously reported on student government and university administration. Aside from writing, she likes to take care of her plants and play (and usually win) the New York Times sudoku puzzle.