UF Student Government Spring elections begin Feb. 28, where the executive branch seats — student body president, vice president and treasurer — along with 50 Senate seats are on the line after a contentious campaign cycle between Gator Party and Change Party.
Polls will be open Feb. 28 and March 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Reitz Printing Lab, Health Science Library, Norman Library, Levin College of Law, Broward Recreation Room, Springs Recreation Room, Southwest Recreation Center and Heavener Hall.
The ballot will also feature a constitutional amendment allowing students to vote on whether or not to swap gendered language, like “his/her,” with “their” in the UF Constitution.
A valid ID and GatorLink username and password are required to vote. Remote voting options are only available to students who requested an absentee ballot.
The UF Senate represents SG’s legislative branch, which authors, debates and enacts legislation. Senators’ legislative decisions influence the allocation of SG’s roughly $23 million dollar budget, such as funding student organizations and events.
The executive branch comprises of the student body officers, agencies, cabinet and executive secretaries. Each division of the branch has separate duties: the student body president holds a position on the UF Board of Trustees; secretaries act as liaisons between the UF community and SG; agencies specialize in particular student needs, such as voting; and cabinets provide programs and outreach to students.
Gator Party, which currently holds a supermajority in the Senate and dominance over the executive branch, has a slate of 49 Senate candidates and three nominees for its executive ticket. Change Party, which won 27 Senate seats in the Fall, has 45 Senate candidates as well as three executive ticket candidates on its slate.
Change Party’s executive ticket includes both candidates with and without prior SG experience: student body president candidate Faith Corbett, former Senate minority party leader, vice president candidate Kacie Ross, a Machen Florida Opportunity Scholarship recipient and member of UF Black Student Union and treasurer candidate David 'Jonner' Delgado, president of Liquid Propulsion, an engineering-focused student design team.
The Gator Party’s executive ticket all currently hold SG positions. Student body president candidate Olivia Green is the Senate president; Clara Calavia Sarnago serves as the Leadership and Service Division chair, and Nyla Pierre, who has served as a senator since Spring 2022, is a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Students Taking Action Against Racism (STAAR) agency.
The party’s campaign platform focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, improving the accessibility for on-campus academic, lifestyle and transportation resources and reforming the student organization funding model.
“We need to elect an executive ticket that will build for the future,” Calavia said during the SG debate Feb. 21. “One that works to create an inclusive and accessible campus and that will enhance the student experience. Our ticket has been committed to our platform and goal since day one.”
Gator plans to advocate to establish LGBTQ and Asian American and Pacific Islander institutes, similar to the Institute of Black Culture, to provide safe and supportive on-campus spaces for these communities.
Additionally, Gator said it aims to help UF reach Hispanic-Serving Institution status, which would provide increased resources for the Hispanic community on campus.
“Gator Party has always cared about DEI,” Pierre said. “We really want students to feel safe on campus.”
For on-campus academic, lifestyle and transportation resources, Gator proposes expanded access to free textbooks online, emergency housing to assist students experiencing temporary homelessness, reviving the Stay Fresh Laundry Grant and supplying free sexual health resources to dorm residents in partnership with GatorWell.
Regarding graduate students, Gator would seek to provide free graduate research materials and increase the number of SNAP buses traveling to graduate residential communities.
“Some people rely on SNAP to get to and from class, especially a lot of grad students that live in Tanglewood Village,” Green said at the debate. “So, increasing SNAP, especially there, will be really important.”
To tackle concerns about student organization funding, Gator’s executive ticket has pledged it would meet with 100 student organizations within the first 100 days of its term and establish a new student organization funding model.
The Gator-controlled Student Organization Funding Review Ad Hoc Committee recently released a report providing suggestions for amending the funding model: adjusting the maximum amount of funding an organization can request and extending the period of time for requesting funding. Gator Party announced plans to split the funding request process across multiple days Feb. 26.
Change’s campaign centers around restructuring funding for student organizations, expanding funding for mental health services and a permanent 24/7 library resource, combating issues like food insecurity and sexual assault and developing environmental sustainability initiatives.
“There is only one reliable option for students and that is Change,” Corbett said during the SG debate. “We are here to restore faith in your student government.”
To fund initiatives such as a permanent 24/7 library resource, improvement of mental health services, securing free meals for student workers, a 24/7 Southwest Recreation Center and free printing in all academic spaces, Change would reallocate funding from Student Government Productions and ACCENT Speakers Bureau.
For sexual assault prevention and safety efforts, Change says they plan to improve the availability of lighting and blue lights on campus and require Green Dot training, a sexual assault prevention instruction, for student organization leaders.
“I think that our party, especially since the inception, has been a huge advocate of [sexual assault] prevention,” Corbett said. “In terms of student safety, saving lives, saving mental health and saving the student experience.”
Environmental sustainability makes up a significant portion of Change’s platform. They want to establish UF as carbon-neutral by 2025, expand renewable energy practices in SG-run facilities, develop a long-term and sustainable graduate housing plan and launch free community gardens on campus.
“We are in a very critical time when it comes to the environment,” said Jonathan C. Stephens, Change Party’s campaign manager. “It's time that our university helps us, especially as a student government … take sustainability to the next level.”
Change would also work to increase base funding for student organizations and create a more equitable and fair student organization funding model, such as an extension of the period of time organizations would have to submit funding requests.
“I've seen firsthand how our funding process is flawed,” Delgado said. “Our organizational funding process needs to ensure that everyone is getting truly a fair shot at being able to get these funds.”
A leading source of friction among the parties is the need for prior SG experience as critical to man the executive branch.
While Gator claims that Delgado and Ross are unqualified to manage the responsibility of their potential new roles, Change argues as a student government, it’s most important for SG leaders to represent a diversity of student voices.
For questions regarding the upcoming election, students can contact Supervisor of Elections Ethan Halle or visit the SG office on the third floor of the Reitz Union.
Contact Amanda Friedman firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amandasfriedman.
Amanda Friedman is a senior journalism major and the East Gainesville reporter for The Alligator. When she isn't reporting, she loves watching A24 movies, listening to Ariana Grande and reading books she found on TikTok.