The final Student Senate meeting of the term — which bled into the first of the new term — was packed with tearful goodbyes from departing senators and smiling hellos from new ones.
The Senate met twice in back-to-back meetings Oct. 11. The first meeting closed last Fall senators’ terms, while the second opened the new term. The Senate also postponed the vote on a highly-contested bill reclassifying student organizations and affecting their funding.
The meeting followed the Fall Student Government elections, which ushered in new senators to the chamber. A surprising victory for Change Party, the minority caucus saw an increase from eight senators to 31.
Together, the meetings lasted almost five hours, the first meeting opening at 6:34 p.m. and the second meeting closing at 11:26 p.m.
The first meeting consisted of goodbye speeches from senators leaving their leadership positions or their seats entirely.
Notably, former Senate President Elizabeth Hartzog (Gator-Accounting) gave an almost 30-minute long speech as she stepped down from the presidency, a Student Government rule for each term. She thanked several senators for their companionship, but also reflected on difficult moments throughout the term.
She recalled throwing up, having panic attacks and having to seek comfort in her family in Jacksonville due to derogatory comments aimed at her in Senate, including a Summer meeting when she said she was compared to a war criminal.
“I am also having to leave this chamber knowing that the thing I loved most about the University of Florida was weaponized against me and turned very quickly into something I began to dread,” Hartzog said in her speech.
Nonetheless, Hartzog said she wanted to close her term on a light note, discussing highlights of her Senate career.
The one hot-button legislative issue of the night was a revision to student organization classification that would affect funding. The revision’s vote was originally scheduled for the Sept. 27 meeting. However, the meeting didn’t meet quorum, so the vote was pushed to Oct. 11.
But the vote never arrived.
Instead, the revision was tabled, meaning its vote is postponed, and the bill won’t go into effect for the time being. To be voted on in the new term, the bill will need to be reintroduced.
Jack David, president of Gator Motorsports, thanked the Senate for tabling the bill.
“These classifications kill all design teams on campus,” David said in public comment. “These classifications will kill what makes UF engineering special and coveted by the engineering industry.”
After the break, the second meeting saw the swearing-in of new senators, as well as the election of new Senate leadership.
Newly-elected senators, largely from the Change caucus, moved from the back to the front of the auditorium during the break. Just as the meeting was called to order, they repeated after SG Chief Justice Ryan Wiele in their swearing-in oath.
A new Senate president, pro-tempore and two members-at-large were elected. For each position, candidates gave a five-minute presentation followed by five minutes of questioning. Then, senators voted aloud for their preferred candidate.
Former Pro Tempore Olivia Green (Gator-District A) will replace Hartzog as the new Senate president. Former budget and appropriations chair Catherine Giordano (Gator-District A) will ascend to Green’s position as new pro-tempore. The pro-tempore position also requires Giordano to chair the Replacement and Agenda Committee.
Two new members-at-large, Senators Mara Vaknin (Gator-District A) and Ana Carolina Troncoso (Gator-Engineering), were elected as well. All four elected leaders are members of the majority Gator caucus.
The Senate will meet again Oct. 18 at 7:30 in the Senate Chambers, found on the ground floor of the Reitz Union. The meeting is open to the public.
Contact Alissa Gary at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaGary1.
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.