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Saturday, May 18, 2024

The UF Student Senate elected Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) as its new president April 4, nearly one month after the validation of the Spring Student Government elections results and a contentious Senate leadership battle in the chamber.

However, former Interim Senate President Catherine Giordano released an email statement to senators Wednesday around 1 p.m., declaring the results of Tuesday night’s Senate presidential election invalid due to the absence of a quorum, per the UF Student Body Constitution. 

“The Senate President election was held with only 48 Senators present and voting, thus not constituting a majority of the total membership of the Senate,” Giordano claimed. “This means the vote is null and void.”

Elections for new Senate leadership, including for Senate president, will be held at the next Senate meeting where a quorum is met, she asserted.

With Change and Gator Caucus in disagreement on the validity of last night’s election for Senate president, the legitimacy of the results remains unclear.

SG Supreme Court Chief Justice Ryan Wiele declined to comment to The Alligator on the matter, anticipating the Court will receive a petition on the election's validity.

Throughout the past few weeks, Change Caucus has accused the Gator Caucus of attempting to delay Senate leadership elections and reclaim a Senate majority with a perceived filibuster, quorum bust and resurrection of the retired Liberation Caucus. 

Eight Gator Caucus members temporarily changed their affiliation to the retired Liberation Party over the weekend. The Change Caucus suspects the action was an attempt to gain extra seats in the Replacement and Agenda Committee, as eight is the minimum number of senators needed to form a caucus. 

In response to Gator's resurrection of the Liberation Caucus, 13 members of the Change Caucus changed their affiliation to Liberation and elected caucus leadership during a special meeting Monday morning to overrule the eight Gator senators. The newly Liberation caucus leaders then boycotted the Replacement and Agenda Committee meeting, causing the committee to fail to meet quorum. Once the special meeting adjourned, the former Liberation Caucus members submitted their reaffiliation to the Change Caucus. 

Gator Caucus has denied allegations of stalling the elections and blamed the absence of Change Majority Party Leader Evan Rafanan from the last few Replacement and Agenda Committee meetings, causing the committee to fail to meet quorum, for the Senate’s inability to conduct business. 

As the Replacement and Agenda Committee failed to meet quorum for the third week in a row Monday, senators would have to propose amendments to the agenda for Senate leadership elections to occur. Therefore, once public comment concluded, Sen. Mohammed Faisal (Change-District D) moved to add elections for Senate president, pro-tempore and members-at-large to the meeting agenda.

Immediately after the motion passed, almost all Gator Caucus members began to flee the chamber. Only two Gator-affiliated senators remained seated: Sen. Wilson Roberts (Gator-District B) and Aubrey Mys (Gator-G&FH). 

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Once motions to nominate Santiago Perez as Senate president and begin the voting process passed, Sen. Raj Mia (Change-CALS) moved to declare the chair, Giordano, vacant and replace Faisal as temporary chairman per Roberts Rule 62:11. In a standing vote, with 46 senators in approval and three senators against, the motion to remove Giordano as chair passed. 

With only 49 total votes, Giordano asserted an absence of a quorum — 51 present senators — indicating the Senate could no longer conduct business. However, the Change Caucus moved to appeal her decision, resulting in Faisal temporarily taking her place as chair.

Multiple Gator Caucus members, including Roberts and Giordano, motioned to call for quorum, which failed due to Faisal’s argument that a motion unrelated to the vote cannot be raised during an election, per the Rules and Procedures of the Student Senate. 

In a roll call vote, 46 senators voted in approval and two abstained. Santiago Perez was elected as the new Senate president, the Change Caucus’ first Senate leadership position since its establishment in 2021. The chamber exploded with applause and cheers as Santiago Perez stood behind the chamber’s podium for the first time. 

Santiago Perez expressed excitement about beginning his term as Senate president after the meeting.

“I am very proud that I have the confidence of the Student Senate,” he said. “I’m ready to get to work.”

However, Santiago Perez was also disappointed in the Gator Caucus’ decision to quorum bust the meeting and aims to repair the political divide within the Senate during his term, he said.

“It just shows the hyperpartisanship that is increasing within our student government, and I hope as Senate president, I can serve as a resource for everybody,” he said.

In response to Giordano’s email statement, Santiago Perez sent an email to senators Wednesday around 2 p.m. asserting the election results are valid because it was not until after the election was held that a quorum check established the absence of a quorum, he wrote. Prior to the election, a quorum of 91 senators was established.

After the Senate presidential election, Roberts motioned for a quorum call, which passed and revealed there were only 47 senators present: the chamber no longer had a quorum. Before Santiago Perez could adjourn the meeting, UF SG Supreme Court Chief Justice Ryan Wiele swore him in as Senate president.

Although multiple Change Caucus members, including Faisal and Rafanan, made parliamentary attempts to prolong the meeting with the absence of a quorum so the chamber could continue with Senate leadership elections, Santiago Perez adjourned the meeting at 9:16 p.m.

Faisal wished to prolong the meeting so the chamber could elect new Senate leadership, allowing the Senate to begin filling the countless empty SG committee seats. Multiple committees, such as the Budget and Appropriations Committee, have not been able to meet quorum and conduct duties, like overseeing student organization funding, Faisal said after the meeting’s conclusion.

However, he said he’s proud of the progress made last night. 

“I think Oscar will be the best Senate president we've ever seen,” Faisal said.

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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