After a Fall election where Change Party gained more Senate seats than Gator Party, Change hopes to build on that momentum with the announcement of its executive ticket and campaign platform. Gator, on the other hand, is aiming to maintain its supermajority in both the executive and legislative branches by engaging more closely with students.
Both parties teased the reveal of their executive tickets with suspenseful, uplifting videos on social media and announced candidates within the first week of February.
UF students will elect a new student body president, vice president and treasurer, as well as 50 new senators representing various academic colleges during the Student Government Spring elections between Feb. 28 and March 1.
Gator Party announced Student Senate President Olivia Green as its nominee for student body president just 24 hours into the Spring election season. She will be joined by Clara Calavia Sarnago for student body vice president and Nyla Pierre for treasurer as the party’s first all-female executive ticket, the party announced Feb. 1 at Gator Walk.
Calavia serves as the Leadership and Service Division chair, and Pierre has served as a senator since Spring 2022.
Green has full confidence in her running mates’ abilities to serve the UF community, she said.
“They are kind-hearted, passionate people, and I truly could not imagine running with anyone else,” Green said.
Green promised to tackle student organization funding in the face of a new policy that went into effect July 1 and stripped SG funding away from roughly 20% of student organizations — causing an outpour of frustration and confusion among its leaders. She also emphasized the importance of combating on-campus food insecurity and the continuance of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
“It is time to have a student body president that you can rely on and trust your opinions will be recognized,” Green said.
Gator Party’s Spring election campaign platform expands on Green’s support of DEI initiatives: establishing an Asian cultural institute on campus, promoting UF's designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution, supporting the needs of first-generation students and pushing for Canvas modules related to racism and race relations.
This follows Gov. Ron DeSantis’ announcement regarding his plans to defund DEI programs during a press conference Jan. 31, leaving university students and faculty worried about political encroachment on the Florida education system.
Sazzad Mabud, a Gator Party campaign manager and the Transition Cabinet chair, said in a written statement there are no others better fit to lead UF SG than Green, Calavia and Pierre. Gator's platform points aim to address students' dire needs and make tangible change, he said.
"Going forward, we want to place an even greater emphasis on student opinions, concerns and ideas and make every effort to address them," Mabud said.
The campaign platform also concentrates on improving the accessibility of on-campus resources for the student body, such as advocating for increased legal services for non-traditional students, textbook affordability grant programs and innovation in academic advising, Mabud said.
When asked about Change Party's success in the Fall, Mabud said Gator is doing everything possible to ensure a triumphant campaign.
"We are reflecting on our past campaigns to learn where we succeeded and where we fell short," he said.
He also emphasized Gator Party will strive to hold the university administration accountable as UF transitions to President Ben Sasse's leadership. Following current Student Body President Lauren Lemasters’ vote in support of Sasse, Green joined the current student body vice president and treasurer in speaking out against the decision.
Gator Party currently controls SG’s executive branch and is the majority party in the Senate, though Change won more Senate seats in the Fall 2022 election.
Change Party announced its Spring executive ticket Feb. 7 at Turlington Plaza, with former Senate Minority Party Leader Faith Corbett running for student body president.
“I'm running because a lot of my efforts in Student Government have been shut out by the Senate,” Corbett said after her speech.
Kacie Ross was announced as the candidate for vice president and David “Jonner” Delgado as the candidate for treasurer during the event, both new candidates to SG.
Although the party doesn’t have representation in the executive branch, Change gained 27 seats in the Senate during the Fall elections, chipping away at Gator Party’s majority.
Social justice, equity and representation are the pillars that make up the framework Change follows, Corbett said. She emphasized the importance of applying these principles to SG policy in light of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposals for higher education, such as the defunding of DEI initiatives.
“Change’s slogan has always been ‘Forward, together,’” she said. “But I don't think it mattered so much before this year.”
Change Party President Natalie McNamara thinks students are fed up with how SG is currently operating and having two executive candidates as outsiders to SG is an asset of the party, she said.
“I think that the fact that they haven't been involved in student government before is a strength that works in their favor,” McNamara said. “They really bring a new perspective to this.”
Change Party's Spring campaign platform heavily centers on expanding funding for student resources, including increasing the base funding for student organizations and budget for mental health services, like GatorWell and the Counseling and Wellness Center, McNamara said.
Additionally, McNamara said the party aims to add solar panels and green roofs to SG-run facilities to expand renewable energy practices. Change also wants to work toward developing a long-term, sustainable plan for graduate housing and establishing an online, remote option for SG elections.
Over the next few weeks, Gator and Change candidates must engage with the student electorate to win their votes. However, some students are disappointed with SG leadership's communication with constituents.
One of them is Vanessa Esposito, a 19-year-old UF freshman studying music, who said she senses a disconnect between SG leaders and the student electorate once campaign season ends.
"The impression that I get is a lot of students feel like they elect people to represent them in the student body, and they kind of never hear from them again," Esposito said.
She believes there should be consistent interaction and communication among elected officials and constituents beyond election cycles.
Kiara Novak, an 18-year-old UF acting freshman, highlighted the inaccessibility of UF's SG election voting method. She thinks an online, remote voting option could increase voter turnout and encourage students to engage with SG.
"I think that spreading the word a little bit more and making it accessible through remote types of voting would do more for the school," she said. "I know that not everyone is able to [vote] when it's on campus."
Ella Thompson contributed to this story.
Contact Amanda at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandasfriedman.
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.