A specter haunts the University of Florida. The specter of liberation.
Our university and our democracy is under attack. On a broad scale, assaults on our academic freedom by Tallahassee have gone unchecked by the UF Board of Trustees, creating an atmosphere of fear and censorship. The graduate assistants who help produce UF’s prized research and teach numerous courses continue to be underpaid and overworked, while graduate housing is being destroyed and outsourced to for-profit corporations.
Meanwhile, our Student Government, led by a Gator Party supermajority, continues to set aflame the values of freedom, diversity, and democracy — whether it’s through bullying and racially microaggressing a Black queer student, Jonathan Stephens, or coercing their senators to vote against their will. Additionally, the authoritarian Senate recently passed a reapportionment bill that disenfranchised thousands of UF students who live outside of Gainesville by eliminating their one-seat district.
Data provided in a case that will be heard by the UF Supreme Court suggests District E should make up the largest share of the 50 geographically based Senate seats, and yet it has now been eliminated. This entire situation is made worse by the continued ban on online voting, which Gator Party has failed to address.
However, there is hope.
We, the student body, cannot afford to continue letting corrupt autocrats control more than $23 million of our student fees and trample over the values that define us as students and as a university.
Candidates who believe in democracy reform must be supported by students. That could mean implementing ranked choice voting to help abolish the one-party system, creating finance equity for SG parties, or lifting the harsh restrictions on free speech that essentially ban Gator Party dissenters from offering an alternative SG vision.
SG also has the power to make a better campus possible. We need to call for the mass expansion of student services, which could include making laundry, a necessary service for students, free of charge. Abolishing name change fees on GatorONE cards would uphold UF’s commitments to inclusivity for transgender and married students.
Additionally, SG must pass the Pregnancy Healthcare Authorization, which would empower students and allow them to have freedom over their reproductive healthcare.
At the polls, students must also let SG know how important the university’s labor unions are. Graduate Assistants United, United Faculty of Florida and United Campus Workers are all important organizations that have uplifted worker voices. They’ve also won material changes for workers who make UF a better place to work. Their work is far from done, and the student body must stand firmly behind them as they continue to work toward their goals.
To this end, students should vote for candidates who support solidarity with unions and pro-labor policies. This includes pushing SG to buy products made by unions in America, establishing a Senate committee to review worker benefits and pay and encouraging SG and other workers to unionize.
We the students have an immense duty to repel the forces of authoritarianism that hang like a stormcloud over our campus. If we’re to honestly espouse the university’s values of inclusion, freedom & civility, community and stewardship, we cannot let stand the one-party system that currently corrupts SG. We must liberate our campus, and we must liberate SG.
The Liberation Party, founded by activists with years of organizing experience, aims to be a force for the freedom of SG from the shackles of the system. Working under the Young Democratic Socialists of America, we have already started a movement for liberation that encompasses all of campus, not just the corrupt Senate.
Student Government elections are Sept. 27 and 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on both days. The Liberation Party is running eight candidates, mainly in District D, zip code 32608, and is endorsing several Change Party candidates and independent candidates for Senate. Students can view this information and more about the party on our Instagram.
Our alternative vision for SG is completely within the bounds of what the Senate can do and well within its budget. A better campus is possible!
Liberation Party is a Student Government political party slating in the Fall 2022 SG election.