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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Tearful farewells and celebratory cheers over the validation of the Spring election results encompassed the Student Government Senate’s final meeting before Spring break.

Besides validating the Spring SG election results and hearing the speeches of outgoing senators, the chamber passed six pieces of legislation during the four-and-a-half-hour March 7 meeting.

Student Body President-elect Olivia Green called the meeting to order for the last time as Senate president at 6:37 p.m. with 77 senators present. 

Supervisor of Elections Ethan Halle presented the election results to the chamber toward the end of the meeting. The Gator Party won the executive branch and the Change Party took the Senate majority. Halle proudly highlighted the recent cycle’s turnout of over 12,400 votes.

“The second-highest turnout in Student Government history," he said.

Sen. Faith Corbett (Change-District C) moved to validate the election results, which passed with unanimous consent and sparked applause across the chamber. 

During the Senate’s first meeting after Spring break, March 21, the chamber will elect new Senate leadership: a new Senate president, Senate pro-tempore, two members at large, majority party leader and minority party leader. The senator elects will also be sworn in that day. 

The Change Caucus holds a slim majority with 49 senators to Gator’s 48 senators. The new Senate leadership will discuss how to fill the three open senate seats in Districts A, C and D.

All legislation on the docket passed, including four resolutions and two bills. 

The four resolutions condemned anti-Asian hate crimes, such as the California mass shootings in January, addressed the mass shooting at Michigan State University Feb. 13, commemorated the lives lost in the Turkey-Syria earthquake and called for the reversal of UF's plans to demolish graduate housing communities University Village South and Maguire Village

One of the bills, the Budget Online Resources Accessibility Act (BORAA), authored by Sen. Jonathan C. Stephens (Change-District D), will require the Budget and Appropriations Committee to develop a summary of the 800 codes, which detail financial rules. It would then provide student organizations with a resource to understand the SG budget, in light of recent controversies on access to funding.  

The second bill, the Student Government Food Expenditures Expansion Denotion (SG Feed) Act, authored by Stephens and Sen. Connor Panish (Change-Yulee), will increase the maximum amount of money a student organization can request per person for food at an event, from $5 to $7. 

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Some senators’ goodbye speeches reflected on their time in SG with humor, while others took a more solemn turn.

During Corbett’s roughly 45-minute speech, detailed the intense, high-stakes journey of navigating the Senate as a former minority party leader.

Corbett is honored to leave behind a Change-controlled Senate as her legacy, she said. 

"Don't ever let someone convince you the work here will be easy," Corbett said. "Please make sure you put recognition behind the title you've worked so hard to have."

Green also said her goodbyes to the Senate, with hopes to leave the chamber on a positive note before she takes on the presidency. She congratulated the Change Caucus on its successful Senate campaign and shared anecdotes about those who made her time in the Senate special.

“I want to do good work and help students on campus,” Green said. “This entire Senate chamber has made me a better person and a better leader. For that, I am forever grateful.” 

Green also thanked her family — including her brother Ian Green, who served as UF’s student body president from Spring 2018 to Spring 2019, for his unwavering support throughout her time in SG. 

“You're my best friend ever, and there's truly no better sibling duo,” she said. “I'm glad I can make you proud.”

Various other senators shared their goodbyes with the chamber, such as Change Minority Party Leader Gabriela Montes, Sen. Grace Shoemaker (Change-Engineering), Treasurer-elect Sen. Nyla Pierre (Gator-Sophomore), John Brinkman (Gator-CLAS) and Judiciary Committee Chair Sean Harkins. 

During public comment, graduate senator-elect Rachel Hartnett, also co-president of the graduate student labor union Graduate Assistants United, advocated for what she said were the severely low pay for UF graduate assistants, with a minimum annual salary of $17,000. 

“We are the reason that UF runs,” she said. “UF is abandoning graduate assistants by destroying UVS and Maguire, giving them nowhere to live in Alachua County. This will hurt recruitment and retention of graduate assistants.”

She urged senators to pass the resolution calling for UF to reverse its plans to demolish Maguire Village and University Village South, as the communities provide graduate students with affordable housing options in an area where living costs are only increasing.

After the meeting, Corbett again verified she aims to regain her Senate seat after revoking her initial resignation she submitted per the Resign to Run Act

After Corbett attempted to rescind her resignation, Senate Pro-Tempore Catherine Giordano requested a UF Supreme Court hearing over the definition of “resignation” within the Resign to Run Act. 

An hour before the hearing was scheduled to start Tuesday, Giordano withdrew her request and decided Corbett’s resignation would go into effect when the Senate validated the results, according to an email thread.

"I am pursuing the court's legal counsel, on whether or not these resignations are revocable," Corbett said.

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

This article has been updated to reflect clarifications made to The Alligator by the UF Supreme Court.

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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