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Sunday, March 03, 2024

Members of the Change Caucus gloomily gazed at the empty side of the Senate chamber Tuesday evening, their hopes to elect new Senate leadership once again stonewalled. 

Political turmoil in the UF Student Senate persists as the chamber failed to meet quorum due to the absence of almost all Gator Caucus members. The seven-minute Senate meeting resulted in the delaying of Senate leadership elections for a second week. 

The Gator Caucus’ prolonged public comment March 21 and quorum bust Tuesday evening follow the party’s second consecutive UF Student Government Senate election loss, which resulted in a slim Change Caucus Senate majority. Change Caucus members have argued the recent actions of the Gator Caucus are an attempt to prevent the Senate from electing Change Caucus members into leadership positions.

Three members of the Gator Caucus haven’t responded to requests for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.

By not meeting quorum, the Senate again failed to hold elections for a new Senate president, Senate pro-tempore and two members at large, which were initially supposed to take place March 21. Elections were stalled during the last meeting due to the over 50 Gator affiliates that signed up for public comment. 

The only member of the Gator Caucus to appear was Interim Senate President Catherine Giordano. As the chamber needs 51 senators to conduct business, and 37 Change Caucus senators in attendance, Giordano adjourned the meeting after roll call. 

The quorum bust also comes after Change Majority Party Leader Evan Rafanan missed his second consecutive Replacement and Agenda Committee meeting Monday, causing the committee to fail to meet quorum for a second week. Rafanan declared in a March 25 email thread he wouldn’t attend committee meetings until Senate leadership elections were held.

Staring at the empty seats in the chamber, Rafanan expressed frustration by the perceived coordinated effort of the Gator Caucus to quorum bust the meeting. 

“To see students, who call themselves leaders, not show up today to conduct business is deplorable,” he said. “But given that Gator Caucus wants to cling to their power, I see this being a recurring event, sadly.”

With Giordano and Sen. Mara Vaknin, Interim Replacement and Agenda Committee Chair, (Gator-District A) in their positions, Rafanan said attending the committee's meetings to conduct business before new Senate leadership is elected would be unfair to the student body. Giordano and Vaknin should have given up their leadership positions at the March 21 Senate meeting, Rafanan said.

“To allow them to conduct business would be a disservice to the students who voted in this election and elected 50 new senators to represent the new leadership,” he said. 

Sen. Navya Nair (Change-Keys) announced plans to hold a special session dedicated to electing new Senate leadership after the meeting was adjourned, with no date or time confirmed. 

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Sen. Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) also voiced disappointment in the absence of almost all Gator senators.

“I can only assume that it was purposeful,” he said. “Fourty-six or 47 of their senators being absent is a little suspicious.”

Going forward, bipartisanship is crucial to solving the ongoing dysfunctionality plaguing the chamber, Santiago Perez said. 

“Both sides will need to come together and come to a solution for this,” he said. “We're about to enter a month without any Senate leadership, and I think that is a disservice to the chamber and a disservice to the student body.”

Contact Amanda at afriedman@alligator.org. 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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