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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

With no legislation debates, a combative public comment surrounding Marston Science Library’s return to 24-hour operations dominated the Jan. 17 Student Government Senate meeting.

By the meeting’s 7:30 p.m. start time, 72 senators were present.

The three bills on the docket: an amendment that would remove gendered language from the Constitution, a resolution to recognize and promote the Spread Cream Cheese Not Hate Campaign event combatting antisemitism and a revision to the 300 Codes, which outline the rules of the legislative branch, to change Town Hall events from open to moderated forums, all passed without debate.

Toward the meeting’s end, Corbett announced she organized a team of senators to research how to fund the contraceptive vending machines initiative.

During public comment, Sen. Grace Shoemaker (Change-Engineering), who has been researching the 24-hour library initiative since November 2021, spoke about her frustration with the executive branch and Gator Caucus’ handling of the initiative.

While the provost has agreed to fund 24-hour access to Marston this year, Shoemaker said, her ongoing conversations with Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs Angela Linder suggest that the provost will not solely fund 24-hour library services long term. 

“I am elated to hear Marston will open for a year by the provost,” she said. “I fear how reproducible this will be in the future.”

When Shoemaker met with Student Body President Lauren Lemasters in early 2022 about the 24-hour libraries, she said, Lemasters was disinterested in allocating SG funding to the project.  

Other SG leaders agreed with Lemasters, arguing that funding for academic buildings should come from the provost's office and tuition dollars, not the activity and service fees budget, Shoemaker said. 

However, Shoemaker noted SG has partially funded 24-hour library services in the past and tuition dollars and credit hours finance the activity and service fees budget. Shoemaker was also hurt by the lack of bipartisan collaboration when negotiating the recent deal, considering the years of research she put into the initiative, she said. 

“I believe more collaboration at this point could have resulted in a more sustainable plan as well as diversity of thought,” she said.

Sen. Saketh Damera (Gator-PHHP) spoke in support of Lemasters’ stance to not allocate SG funding to 24-hour library services and praised the executive branch for delivering on its promises regarding the initiative. 

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“Let’s make one thing clear: while students’ voices were an important part of this process,” he said, “this deal was ultimately struck between the office of the provost and the current Student Government administration.”

Damera emphasized if SG had approved the Change Caucus’ amended activity and service fee budget proposed in the Fall, $300,000 would have been taken from areas like student organizations to fund extended library hours. He views the recent deal with the provost as a win for all students, he said. 

Like Shoemaker, Minority Party Leader Faith Corbett (Change-District C) expressed frustration with the Executive Branch’s unwillingness to include the members of the Change Caucus in the Marston 24/7 negotiation process. 

Corbett suggested the project was an attempt to make up for the recent controversies struck by the current executive leaders, such as Lemasters’ vote to confirm Ben Sasse as UF president. 

“Let’s celebrate another year of 24/7 libraries,” she said. “But trust me, this is not enough to save this administration’s face.” 

Senators also approved Dorian Simpkins as the nomination for the Bridges Agency Head and the striking of Kylie Coolican from the Assistant Supervisor of Elections on the agenda.

Senators approved Stephens’ motion to rescind the Judiciary Committee’s decision to fail a resolution that would add discriminatory acts as an official violation to The Orange Book conduct code section. 

In a minority report, Corbett presented the Change Caucus’ amended activity and service fee budget, proposed in the Fall to counter Damera's earlier statements regarding the funding redistribution. 

She pointed out how only $130,000 of funding from ACCENT Speakers Bureau and Student Government Productions — not student organizations — was reallocated to fund expanded library hours. 

On Wednesday at 5 p.m., Damera explained in an email to the Alligator that he was presenting the proposed budget’s effect over a three-year period in his public comment statement. He also clarified that only ACCENT Speakers Bureau and Student Government Productions’ funding would be cut to finance the expanded library hours, rather than student organizations.

During the committee reports, Budget and Appropriations committee Vice-chair Sen. Jacob Kanfer (Gator-Engineering) announced details regarding the next funding cycle will be released soon. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:11 p.m.

Senate meets every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Senate Chambers, located in the Reitz Union. The meetings are open to the public. 

Contact Amanda at Follow her on Twitter @amandasfriedman.

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Amanda Friedman

Amanda Friedman is a senior journalism major and the Enterprise Editor at The Alligator. She previously wrote for the Avenue, Metro and University desks. When she isn't reporting, she loves watching coming-of-age films and listening to Ariana Grande. 

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