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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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The first Student Government Senate meeting of the Summer B term brought forth commotion, filibustering, and several approved executive nominations. 

Senate President Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) called the meeting to order at 7:09 p.m. and adjourned at 10:53 p.m. with 66 senators present.

Santiago Perez read out a Land Acknowledgement to the Senate before proceedings, despite the recent veto of the Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Act.

The public comment lead up

In emails sent to The Alligator before the Senate meeting, former Progressive and Communist Parties’ leader Alfredo Ortiz attempted to sign up for public comment. Santiago Perez denied his request. 

“It has been determined that you are not a currently enrolled student at this time,” Santiago Perez wrote. “If you have any questions regarding eligibility, please contact our advising team.” 

Ortiz disagreed with Santiago Perez’s interpretation of his eligibility status and accused the Senate president of denying him speaking privileges after he filed a Code of Ethics complaint against them. 

“Since the Supreme Court is unavailable for the summer, I am requesting that the Rules and Ethics chair rise to a point of order and challenge the Senate President’s decision to deny me speaking privileges,” Ortiz wrote. 

He submitted his draft of the public comment he planned on reading in an email to The Alligator in an effort to “combat censorship,” he wrote. 

The draft included mentions of Ortiz condemning both the Change and Gator caucuses, stating both parties have leakers.

Ortiz mainly took jabs at Change and believes the party has consistently played the victim and refused to go the extra mile, he wrote. 

“You had your chance to prove that Change was the future of the Independent Movement, but all the Student Body remembers is that you lose even when you win,” Ortiz wrote. “Your time is nearly up, and the stakes are too high for us to throw our votes away again by supporting you.”

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Ortiz ended the draft by adding the Communist Party would “see everyone” in the Fall. 

Public comment 

About eight current and former Senators spoke during public comment despite the commotion. 

Sen. Anghelo Gangano (Change-Graduate) addressed the recent legislation concerning the state of Florida followed by Sen. Colin Lasch (Change-Graduate) who spoke on virtues and accountability. 

Budget and Appropriations Committee Clerk Michael Lim spoke on the Resolution Condemning Florida Board of Governors’ Decision to Ban Asian Social Media Platforms at Public Universities. 

Lim and Sen. Laurie Wang (Gator-Freshman) worked on the legislation together. Lim called for every senator to add themselves as a sponsor to fight the attack on Asian communities in the state of Florida. 

Former Arts Sen. Cassie Urbenz addressed Ortiz’s accusations of her not being a currently enrolled student. 

“I heard someone was running around during that recess with my name in their mouth and I wanted to be transparent with you all,” Urbenz said. 

Wearing his red blazer while seated in front of SG advisor Jackie Phillips and Sen. John Brinkman (Independent-District B) during the public comment, Ortiz looked visibly upset. 

Urbenz confirmed she is listed as a Graduate Student and is enrolled in classes during the Summer term. She continued her public comment by letting the chambers know she left the Change Caucus. 

“In regards to me leaving my party, it feels like rebreaking a broken bone that's healed incorrectly,” Urbenz said. “My mom is a nurse, and I've known for a while that when that happens, you have to rebreak it.” 

After Senate, Urbenz said Ortiz’s behavior is unprofessional throughout his time outside of a Senate seat for the past four years.

“Alfredo Ortiz is a self-serving, self-righteous individual who has never put the students of this campus first, as evidenced by his ‘party’s’ consistent failure to gain even a single Senate seat,” Urbenz wrote. 

While other SG committees initially anticipated a lengthy back-to-senate meeting after about 30 pieces of legislation were forwarded to the Replacement and Agenda Committee, no legislation managed to be voted on, including the four vetoed bills. 

This was seemingly due to a lengthy recess called after chaos erupted during debate on a motion — Majority Party Leader Simone Liang (Change-CLAS) motioned to send the ACCENT nominee back to the Replacement and Agenda Committee. 

Liang wrote that going into Summer B she hoped to mend the relationships between party leadership that had broken down over executive nominations and budget during Summer A.

“I am thoroughly disappointed that Allemand completely disregarded this commitment on the Senate floor last night.” Liang wrote. 

Liang felt as though Minority Party Leader Bronson Allemand (Gator-District A) blindsided her after Allemand failed the judiciary committee candidate affiliated with her caucus, Christian Rodriguez.

“If Gator Party Leader Allemand had remained committed to the standard of honest communication we had agreed on,” Liang wrote. “We would have had the time to debate and pass bills, and hear the remaining R&A committee recommendations.” Liang wrote. 

Liang and Allemand came to an agreement to immediately hear the budget and to move Replacement and Agenda Committee recommendations after the recess, Liang said. 

Allemand wrote the Student Senate had the opportunity to act on and hear legislation, debate executive nominations, review a nearly 23-million-dollar budget and discuss the qualifications of Replacement and Agenda Committee recommendations, but could not because of the unprofessional actions of the Change caucus. 

The Change caucus continued to be unprofessional and cause delays with repeated motions made only to delay the chamber from reaching sections of the outlined agenda, Allemand wrote.

“These actions can only be described as a filibuster to prevent the chamber from hearing the remaining executive nominations and the candidate nominated for the open permanent College of Liberal Arts and Sciences seat.” Allemand wrote. “I cannot stress enough my disappointment in the conduct demonstrated by the leadership of the Change Caucus."

After a vote “with the highest attention to procedure and honoring of the democratic process” was conducted, the majority caucus, for lack of a better phrase, ‘lost it,’ Allemand said.

“Despite the conflicts that occurred in this past Tuesday's session of the Student Senate, I remain optimistic that through the efforts of the Gator Caucus, real progress can be and will be made on all fronts throughout the remainder of the summer term.” Allemand wrote.

Once Senate moved into a recess until a call back by the Chair, they had a few discussions with various people in the leadership of both caucuses before the leadership of the caucuses moved outside to discuss among themselves, Santiago Perez wrote. 

“Although the recess did last for a very prolonged period, I fear that without it, the Senate would have stalled its processes to a halt," Santiago Perez wrote.

Vetoed legislation will have to be sent to the Replacement and Agenda Committee for consideration. 

Several executive nominations and committee seats were approved, which Student Body President Olivia Green expressed gratitude for in her report. 

The aftermath 

The morning after the senate, Ortiz sent an email to James Tyger expressing his concern with Article IX, Section 4, the Hierarchy of Laws of the UF Constitution

“It is implicit in the right of students to give public comment and the democratic process that they should be able to affect the deliberations of the legislature on issues that will affect them at any point,” Ortiz wrote. 

Ortiz asked for any documentation claiming otherwise to know if this is something to challenge in the Student Government Supreme Court or through the university’s administration. 

An hour later, Ortiz sent another email to The Alligator stating he had enough evidence to file a case with the UF Supreme Court

Contact Vivienne at Follow her on Twitter @vivienneserret.

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Vivienne Serret

Vivienne Serret is a UF journalism and criminology senior, reporting for The Alligator's university desk as the student government reporter and managing editor for The Florida Political Review. She loves debating, lifting at the gym and singing.

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