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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Politics and involvement: Understanding UF Student Government

Reflecting on Summer A, Senators share experiences, offer advice to new students

SG generic
SG generic

With drama rivaling that of U.S. elected officials and a budget bigger than some small cities, UF Student Government can be exciting and intimidating for new students. 

As the UF Summer B SG term begins, incoming students might wonder how they can get involved with SG given the multitude of agencies or committees across the branches.

UF SG is the direct link between the university and its students, according to its website

SG has three branches — the executive, legislative and judicial — mirroring the U.S. federal government’s structure. 

Most notably, SG handles a great deal of the university’s finance and budget, which typically totals more than $20 million.

The current executive student body officers are Student Body President Olivia Green, Student Body Vice President Clara Calavia and Student Body Treasurer Nyla Pierre, all affiliated with the Gator Party. 

The legislative branch officers consist of Senate President Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) and Senate President Pro-Tempore Nathan McGinnis (Change-Tolbert). 

The branch will also consist of Fall and Spring Senators and standing committees. The Student Senate is composed of 100 senators: 50 based on colleges and classifications and 50 based on location. 

Senators are elected by their peers and work for a yearlong term to represent their constituencies and make educated decisions based on their behalf.

Legislative officers oversee Senate meetings, held every Tuesday evening during the fall, spring and summer semesters. Senate meetings are open to the public and take place in the Senate Chambers of the Reitz Union.

Senate meetings give representatives the opportunity to speak during public comment, hear and vote on legislation. 

SG allocates the activity and service fees and divides them into three main entities: the J. Wayne Reitz Union and Student Activities and Involvement, Recreational Sports and SG. 

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The Budget and Appropriations Committee of the Senate holds hearings for each of the entities in the Summer to ensure the funding continues to be spent in the best interest of the students. 

Catherine Giordano (Gator-District A) served as the Budget and Appropriations Committee chairwoman for the Spring and Summer 2022 terms. She authored the current amended budget for the 2022-2023 school year, a total of $22,574,624.

Blake Cox (Gator-District A), the current chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, has the responsibility to hold hearings with the committee to establish a budget for the next fiscal year each Spring.

The activity and service fee budget funds a wide variety of things at UF, most notably student organizations, and events. One of these includes Student Government Productions, which features nationally recognized artists and performers at a free or reduced cost to students. 

Another agency, the ACCENT Speakers Bureau, brings prominent, influential and controversial speakers to campus. UF’s ACCENT Speakers Bureau is the largest student-run speakers bureau in the nation and has been part of the campus for more than 40 years. 

Senators and chairpersons reflect on their experiences with UF Student Government involvement from their freshman year to now, sharing what made them join and what they’ve learned.

Calavia wants students to know applications for Assistant Directors for SG Cabinet will open in the first few weeks of school in the Fall. The roles in the Cabinet are chair, director and assistant director. Some of the roles include planning events, launching campus initiatives and collaborating with other campus partners. 

“This is a great opportunity, especially for underclassmen, to get involved in Student Government,” Calavia wrote. “You will have 24 different Cabinets to choose from including LGBTQ+ Affairs, First Generation Affairs, Multicultural Affairs, Health Affairs and Community Involvement among many others.”

To stay updated when applications open, follow UF SG on Instagram, Calavia said, and feel free to email her for any questions. 

Santiago Perez began attending UF at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and became involved with SG during their sophomore year.

“During my time here, I have found so many people who are motivated to break the status quo to improve the quality of life for students on this campus,” Santiago Perez wrote. “This passion is what drove me to join, and I encourage people with that passion to find their place within Student Government.” 

Santiago Perez encouraged students to reach them through their email, or visit during their office hours, listed on the SG website. 

After not getting a seat in the Replacement and Agenda committee their freshman year, current Judiciary Committee Chairperson Jonathan C. Stephens (Change-District D) learned firsthand how SG teaches three critical principles integral to life. 

“1. Grit will get you through some of your darkest times in life, 2. Taking the easy path is never worth it in the long run, and 3. Your identity is your power, not your weapon,” Stephens wrote. “This is your government, so never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in!"

More information about SG can be found on its website and Instagram page

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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