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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Breaking down Fall UF Student Government party platforms

The Gator, Change and Liberation Parties each focus on different university priorities

Three parties have slated candidates for Fall UF Student Government elections Sept. 27 and 28, which will decide the next 50 students to hold seats in the Student Senate.

Gator, Change and Liberation Parties have all released their platforms for the upcoming election, touting different approaches to improving student life. The full platform points, which were publicly finalized Sept. 20, come after the parties released their slate of candidates for the Fall SG election.

Candidates will be running to represent on- and off-campus residence areas.

Gator has slated candidates for all seats. Change slated all but five seats, and Liberation has slated eight candidates. The full slate is available through the SG website.

Independent candidates may also campaign to have voters write them in, such as Nathaniel Pelton, who is running for the Yulee seat, and Jayden Adjodha, who is running for the Springs seat.

Eighty-seven senators make up the current Gator caucus Senate majority, according to the Senate roster. Change makes up the minority caucus with eight senators, Sen. Oscar Santiago (District D-Change) said, which is also the minimum to be considered a caucus. There’s one independent senator in the legislative body, and Liberation currently holds no seats. 

Voting is open Sept. 27 and 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at on-campus polling locations. Requests for absentee ballots were due Sept. 14.

The Senate will validate the results of the election at the Oct. 11 meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Senate Chamber on the ground floor of the Reitz Union.

Gator Party: ‘With you, for you’

While tabling last week, Gator representatives asked students to write their ideas for bettering the university on sticky notes — ideas they said would develop the Gator platform.

The Gator platform hopes to address student needs while respecting SG’s realistic abilities and purposes, Gator Party campaign manager and Senate President Elizabeth Hartzog wrote in a statement.

“The culmination of the platform represents our commitment to enhancing the student experience,” Hartzog wrote.

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Gator’s platform includes an initiative to donate unused Flex Bucks to the Field & Fork Pantry, providing Uber Eats waivers and relaxation events during finals week, student meet-and-greets with guest speakers and performers as well as a football ticket grant system. They’re confident every piece of their platform can be completed, according to the statement.

Under their platform announcement on Instagram, many comments from Gator members praised the party for putting out points that were both legal to pursue and capable of being achieved. 

Gator has maintained control of the Senate and of the SG executive branch since its conception in Fall 2019. 

“We are confident our continued dedication to enhancing the student experience will remain clear to voters,” Hartzog wrote.

Gator’s full platform points is listed below:

  • Expanding free test preparation materials for post-graduate entrance exams

  • Providing rental financial calculators in UF libraries 

  • Organizing “de-stress” events and promoting Uber Eats waivers for final exams week

  • Installing electronic charging stations in the Reitz Union

  • Developing a campus map for food location options 

  • Implementing a football ticket grant program through Orange and Blue Cabinet 

  • Creating educational videos on how to request SG funding for student organizations

  • Increasing the proportion of student Gators football tickets

  • Distributing drink testers for students to use and protect themselves from dangerous substances

  • Donating unused Flex Bucks to the Field & Fork Pantry

  • Launching student opportunities to meet with guest performers and speakers

  • Providing Gatorade dispensers in UF gyms 

  • Consolidating students’ services and resources through the SG portal

  • Making a printing stipend guarantee for all student organizations 

Change Party: ‘Forward together’

Change’s first slate debuted Fall 2020. Now, Change is running with the largest slate in its history — 45 candidates, said Faith Corbett, minority party leader and Change campaign manager.

“Everyone’s really excited to be able to run in a student government election and to honestly be able to fight for things,” Corbett said.

Change’s two-part platform focuses primarily on funding for libraries and student organizations, sustainability and increasing transparency within SG. 

Change co-president Natalie McNamara said a majority of students don’t know who their senators are — an issue she hopes Change will address to increase transparency.

“We should never be in a situation where the people who are making decisions for us and making decisions with our money are basically ghosts,” McNamara said.

Parties like Change have pointed to Gator holding a supermajority in SG as a sign to usher in new leadership. Student Body President, Vice President and Treasurer have all been positions held by Gator candidates for the past three years. 

During this election, though, Gator has taken the offensive, calling for District D Change candidate Jonathan C. Stephens to be removed.

Gator released a statement Wednesday morning asking Stephens to withdraw from the election under accusations of “unacceptable” conduct. They referenced the divisive Sept. 13 Senate meeting, after which Stephens raised his voice at Sen. Jacey Cable (Journalism-Gator).

In response, Change released their own statement accusing Gator of repeated microaggressions and disrespect towards Stephens. Stephens will continue to run nonetheless, he said. If he were to win a seat, his priority would be to address food insecurity and voting accessibility on campus.

“A student government should be serving students, hence the name,” Stephens said. “I think that's what keeps me going and what keeps me motivated to stay in Change, stay in student government.”

For Santiago, who is running for reelection with Change, reproductive health care and resources are of high priority. This Summer, Santiago authored an authorization ordering the Student Body President to facilitate pregnancy-related healthcare, a project he’ll continue to work on if he maintains his seat.

“And well, I think seeing that on our platform is very close to my heart, obviously,” Santiago said. “I'm very excited to keep working on that through the next term.”

Change isn’t only confident in their ability to maintain its caucus this election, but it’s aiming to win a third of Senate seats.

“We say this to our candidates every semester: ‘this is a marathon, not a sprint,’” McNamara said. “And every step forward is a step in the right direction.”

Change’s full list of platform points is listed below:

  • Advocating for student-accessible parking options like expanding Red One parking and Park & Ride

  • Implementing composting services and community gardens for student housing, campus facilities and Greek houses

  • Establishing plans to implement solar panels and green roofs on the Reitz Union and other campus buildings

  • Expanding access to food options and worker benefits for SG groups and Field & Fork Pantry

  • Pursuing equitable graduate fee relief and benefits

  • Providing easy-access sexual and reproductive health resources, mainly through vending machines

  • Optimizing bus app accessibility with Gainesville’s Regional Transit System

  • Providing stress relief packages for students for final exams and midterms week

  • Shifting toward biodegradable and recyclable materials for many advertising programs

  • Equitably reforming the SG student organization funding process through a tiered base funding model

  • Documenting funding values and improving public notice services to improve SG transparency

  • Improving WiFi services across campus through collaboration with UF Information and Technology 

Liberation Party: ‘A better campus is possible’

Liberation, a subsection of the UF Democratic Socialists of America, distinguishes itself from the other parties by seeing SG as an add-on benefit to their agenda rather than a final goal, President Aron Ali-McClory said.

That is, even if the party doesn’t win any Senate seats this Fall, it’ll continue to advocate for changes its members would like to see, Ali-McClory said.

“We're going to be making sure when the Student Government tries to crack down on our democracy, when they try to take away what little voting rights we have, that we fight them tooth and nail to make sure that students have a right to vote,” Ali-McClory said.

Liberation’s platform consists of three equal main points: democratic reforms, expansion of student services and solidarity with unions. 

Democratic reforms refer to SG constitutional and code amendments, while proposed student service expansions include free on-campus laundry and free name changes to GatorONE cards.

“I see a vision for student government where students are getting what they need from SG, where the millions of dollars that we give them in our activity and service feed is spent on things that materially benefit the students that are worse off financially,” Ali-McClory said.

Liberation also advocates for secure online voting and complete voting rights for all UF students, according to its platform.

“We want to make sure that all students are represented and that they have the chance to voice their preference in the student government elections,” Ali-McClory said.

Liberation’s full platform is listed below:

  • Removing paid laundry services and making them free for all on-campus residences

  • Expanding reproductive healthcare by adding sexual health kits into popular on-campus spaces

  • Removing GatorONE name change fees

  • Working within SG to provide 24-hour library access

  • Maintaining solidarity with unions through demanding a $15 minimum wage for workers and encouraging SG salaried workers to unionize

  • Passing SG legislation to ensure purchases are made in the United States, especially from local, unionized workplaces

  • Implementing rank choice voting 

  • Pushing for online voting options

  • Providing base funding for all SG parties, potentially including independent candidates

  • Protecting free speech and allowing for SG party existence throughout the entire year

This article has been updated to reflect Sen. Oscar Santiago authored an authorization ordering the Student Body President to facilitate pregnancy-related healthcare. The Alligator previously reported otherwise.

Contact Alissa at agary@alligator.org Follow her on Twitter @AlissaGary1.

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Alissa Gary

Alissa Gary is a freshman journalism major who covers student government for The Alligator. You’ll usually find her watching (and talking about) movies, taking care of her plants, or drinking coffee when she’s not reporting.


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