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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Student government agency ACCENT Speakers accused of conflict of interest, misallocating student funds

Obtained public records requests show connections to Florida Blue Key, Greater Talent Network

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Update: Florida Blue Key President Brady Alexander reached out to The Alligator for an official statement Sept. 26. 

Obtained documents, a Reddit post and public record requests on the UF Student Government agency ACCENT Speakers allege the agency has financial conflicts of interests to the Florida Blue Key institution.

Florida Blue Key’s Statement 

"Florida Blue Key, Inc. is an independent student organization, separate from Accent, and not affiliated with Greater Talent Network (GTN), as referenced in the article,” Alexander wrote. “While an alumnus of Florida Blue Key may have founded GTN, Florida Blue Key, Inc. does not have any investments and has never owned GTN." 

The Allegations

Rey Arcenas, a 20-year-old UF history junior, runs UF Politics, an Instagram account that regularly posts about student government and UF administration. He filed a series of public record requests against ACCENT for the last several months, alleging the agency has been in a conflict of interest with a talent network that was founded by an FBK alumni.  

Arcenas alleges he found out about the conflict after an anonymous source within The System told him there is a money trail within ACCENT Speakers — such as infamously paying TikTok star Josh Richards $60,000 for his talk in the Fall 2022. 

The System, Arcenas wrote in a post, is “a century-old political machine consisting of Greek houses, Florida Blue Key, and the communities that historically and continues to dominate campus politics.” 

“Greater Talent Network was started in the 1980s by a guy named Don Epstein…he was a Florida Blue Key [and] a former ACCENT chair,” Arcenas said. “This whole company is just Florida Blue Key.”

Arcenas said the records show the free ACCENT shows have student tuition funds allocated to Greater Talent Network, which is owned by an FBK alumni, he said. GTN is the talent agency that hires speakers for ACCENT.

“Florida Blue Key has a strong financial conflict of interest here. [It] controls ACCENT Speakers and [Greater Talent Network],” Arcenas said. “We thought that people deserve to know this and they deserve to know what The System's doing.” 

Arcenas believes there is a financial conflict of interest where FBK, the fraternities and sororities have influence over the company ACCENT Speakers conduct business with.

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The budget of ACCENT runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars; the most recent activity and service fee budget allocated ACCENT Speakers nearly $500,000 for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. 

Arcenas cited prior reporting by The Alligator, The Gainesville Sun and The Tab showing that the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi has historically maintained control over ACCENT Speakers because of a deal made within The System deemed a legacy position.

Digging into the ACCENT contract of Josh Richards, the account examines the representative of United Talent Agency Speakers, the agency with which ACCENT conducts much of its business. 

The representative, Arcenas wrote, is a Florida Blue Key, Alpha Epsilon Pi brother and the ACCENT chair from 2004-2005. The representative also started to work for the talent agency in August of 2005.

Arcenas said UTA Speakers acquired GTN in 2017 and the founder of GTN was also a Florida Blue Key, Tau Epsilon Phi brother and ACCENT chair from 1976-1977. 

Prior reporting by The Alligator in 1977 stated “ACCENT and SG Entertainment have both been dominated in recent years by members of Tau Epsilon Phi (TEP) and Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi).”

Arcenas alleges he’s faced harassment and doxxing threats from members of SG’s Vision Party for investigating ACCENT’s financial ties to Florida Blue Key and for making parody memes of members in SG. 

Vision Party affiliates have not publicly addressed the post or claims as of Sept. 24. 

“I also hope to see more students waking up and realizing the corruption at their feet right in their backdoor that a political machine has controlled UF politics for a 100 years,” Arcenas said. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Contact Vivienne Serret at Follow them on Twitter @vivienneserret.

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Vivienne Serret

Vivienne Serret is a UF journalism and criminology senior, writing as a columnist for Summer 2024. She previously reported for The Alligator's university desk as the student government reporter and was managing editor for The Florida Political Review. She loves debating, lifting at the gym and singing.

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