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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Fall semester in Student Government — marked with budget controversies and calls for impeachment of the student body president — has set the stage for a contentious spring election. 

The fall election saw the minority Change Party win 27 of the 50 available Fall Senate seats, leaving it with a stronger voice in SG than it had in the past and decreasing the Gator Party’s majority, despite Gator’s misconduct allegations on the Change side.

Minority Party Leader Faith Corbett (Change-District C) credited the Change win to students’ concern with Josh Richards’ $60,000 Accent speech, student organization funding challenges and a lack of 24-hour campus libraries. 

“Students want to see senators who are willing to represent the purest form of students’ best interests — that being where we put their $19 per credit hour and how we engage with them outside of the election cycle,” Corbett said.

Student Body President Lauren Lemasters’ vote in favor of President-elect Ben Sasse caused students to confront Lemasters on her vote and drew condemnation from fellow SG officials, including in the executive branch. Change introduced a resolution to impeach Lemasters, but it failed in the Judiciary Committee in mid-November.

Despite a mixed student sentiment on SG as a whole, the executive branch has sponsored freshman welcome events, a first generation student week and diversity workshops reaching more than 1,100 students, according to Vice President Daniel Badell and Students Taking Action Against Racism agency head Alejandro Ortiz. 

Additionally, in the State of the Campus address, which revisited several SG accomplishments from the semester, Lemasters vowed to see through a 24-hour library initiative.

From Ortiz’s two years of SG experience, elected officials work for the students’ and university’s greater good, he said.

“I am surrounded by people that are committed with the well-being of every single student in the University of Florida,” Ortiz said. “And we will keep working towards the improvement of our university through constant, tangible and plausible action.”

Looking toward the Spring, Ortiz, who previously worked as the Gator campaign treasurer, said the party hopes to make a diverse group of students feel welcome and valued on campus — and its executive ticket should reflect that goal.

“Leaders are capable of bringing together people with very different opinions because our campus is a very diverse place,” Ortiz said. “We all deserve to move forward as a single student body, not as a fragmented student body.”

Corbett sees a spring Change win as a possibility, she said, though she said it’s not guaranteed. If Change were to win the executive ticket, it would remove Gator from its three-year control of the branch.

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“I don't think any Change senator is seeing the fall as something that was given to them,” Corbett said. “I think it was something that was worked for.”

Although Ortiz doesn’t know how the spring election will pan out, he remains certain the SG officials he works with remain committed to making the university more welcoming for students.

As the semester closes, SG is hosting a coalescence summit to bring together LGBTQ leaders, student organizations and faculty to discuss LGBTQ issues on campus Dec. 9. In the spring, agencies like STAAR are looking to expand ambassador programs to create more dialogue around diversity, equity and inclusion in student organizations and Greek life. 

Ortiz advised all students to vote in the spring election no matter who they vote for.

“Student Government is a very complex structure,” Ortiz said. “They need to go out and vote. It's important because that's the base of our political system. I trust that every single student has the agency to make the right choice.”

Contact Alissa at Follow her on Twitter @AlissaGary1.

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Alissa Gary

Alissa is a sophomore journalism major and University Editor at The Alligator. She has previously covered student government, university administration and K-12 education. In her free time, she enjoys showing photos of her cats to strangers.

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