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Saturday, April 13, 2024

The fight for representation: Why change Is needed now more than ever

Opinions generic
Opinions generic

There’s always more work to be done. This underlying belief has guided Change Party to serve the student body for eight semesters. This thought empowers us to author 200 bills when we are the minority in the Senate chamber. This is our conviction as we strive to put the power back into the hands of all students this election.

Even when we started as a caucus of eight, Change Party has revolutionized what Student Government can and should do for the UF student body. 

Through our advocacy and all-nighters, we understood what students needed. We secured the return of 24/7 Marston Library. This past Summer, we established the first-ever arts pantry to relieve financial obstacles for arts students and provide free art supplies. 

Since the last Fall election, we have delivered $170,000 to student organizations. We fought tooth-and-nail for cultural celebrations that are pivotal to the experience of so many diverse groups on campus. After months of budget meetings, Change raised enough funding to create an on-campus thrift store so students can access affordable and sustainable clothing. 

But progress is always opposed by those who benefit from maintaining the status quo. After rebranding from Gator Party, Vision Party gerrymandered the Fall 2023 election map. By combining Districts A through E into a single off-campus district, Vision diluted minority voting power and left thousands of students and an entire zip code unrepresented in the Senate.

With its majority this past semester, Vision failed graduate student rent relief bills, stifled free speech in the Senate chamber and killed bills that would have established a diversity, equity and inclusion standing committee with student organization representation on them. 

When the state legislature continues its onslaught of attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, labor unions, academic freedom and DEI, complacency in our Student Government means jeopardizing the rights of students. Students make it great to be a Florida Gator, and they deserve to feel safe and empowered on campus — not despite, but because of their diverse and vibrant identities. 

It’s a good thing Change Party likes a challenge.

This semester, we’re fighting to allocate $200,000 annually to the Center for Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement to protect funding for cultural programs and staff. We’ve already been working with faculty and administration and will be implementing a ‘mental health day’ per semester in which students have no classes and are able to take a breather. Change also plans on providing free menstrual health products in all dorms and academic buildings to fight period poverty. After authoring a bill establishing an annual Student Performers Festival, we aim to expand dance and music rehearsal spaces in the Reitz Union and beyond.

We want to bring so many novel resources and experiences to the student body — but we can’t do it without your help. The current majority party wants you to remain uninvolved and uninformed about Student Government because it’s how it gets away with putting in no work while filling resume lines. It’s how it gets away with stripping away representation and inclusion on campus, tearing a page right out of the Florida legislature’s playbook.

It’s time we put the power back into the hands of all students. Change is more than just a political party — we are a movement of advocates, graduate assistants, engineers, club tennis players and student organization leaders who fight tirelessly to improve the campus experience for all gators. 

The election season may be wrapping up, but the work is just beginning. It starts at the polls with your vote. 

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Be a part of the movement that launches UF’s campus Forward, Together. Vote Change Party at your nearest voting location Feb. 27 and 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

Connor Panish is a UF Mathematics Junior and Change Party President. Simone Liang is a UF Political Science Junior, Presidential Candidate and Change Party Director of Policy. Nathaniel Pelton is a UF Political Science Sophomore and Senate Minority Leader.

Oscar Santiago Perez is a UF Political Science Senior and Senate President Emeritus.

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