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Spring Student Government elections: A voter’s guide

Executive ticket and 50 Senate seats to be elected Feb. 27 and 28

SG generic
SG generic

On Feb. 27 and 28, UF students will vote for 50 Student Senate seats and the positions of student body president, vice president and treasurer in the Spring 2024 Student Government elections.

Polls will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Broward Hall basement, the Corry Village commons, the Health Science Center Library, Heavener Hall, the Keys Complex, the Norman Hall Educational Library, the Reitz Union Computer Printing Lab and the Southwest Recreation Center.

To cast their votes, students are required to present a valid photo ID and must either know their UF ID number or bring their Gator 1 card. Students who requested an absentee ballot before Feb. 14 can either mail it in, bring it to the SG office in the Reitz Union or visit a nearby polling location and vote in person. Absentee ballots must be received by 8:30 p.m. Feb. 28.

The Spring 2023 election brought out 12,472 student voters, which is about 20.5% of students enrolled in Fall 2022. Voter turnout sank to about 4.6% in Spring 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic and has steadily climbed in the years since.

The two competing parties are Vision Party and Change Party. Vision Party has a slate of three executive ticket candidates and 48 Senate candidates. Change Party has a slate of three executive ticket candidates and 45 Senate candidates. There are no independent or third party candidates on the ballot, though students have the option to write in additional candidates while voting.

Vision Party’s executive ticket features Senate President John Brinkman as the candidate for student body president, UF Black Student Union President Laura Thomas as the candidate for vice president and Senate President Pro-Tempore Saketh Damera as the candidate for treasurer.

Change Party’s executive ticket includes Liberal Arts and Sciences Senator Simone Liang as the candidate for student body president, Graduate Student Senator Antonio Hendricks as the candidate for vice president and Graduate Student Senator Anghelo Gangano as the candidate for treasurer.

Student Government elections are held in the Spring and Fall semesters of each year. The student body officers of the executive branch and senators by college and year are elected in the Spring, and senators by residence halls and living areas are elected in the Fall. Elected officials serve for a one-year term.

Students will also be voting on three constitutional amendments.

The Proposal to Eliminate the Defunct Honor Court will ask students if they believe references to the discontinued Student Honor Court and Student Honor Code should be removed.

The Ratification Amendment to the Student Body Constitution will ask students if they believe a three-fifths approval vote should be necessary to count toward an amendment’s ratification.

The Website Publication Constitutional Amendment will ask students if they believe there should be a requirement for constitutional amendments to be posted on the Student Government website one week before and on both days of the election.

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Vision Party

Vision holds the majority in the Senate with 58 seats. Its primary platform points include establishing a student campus construction committee, addressing the needs of graduate and professional students, ensuring student wellness, securing funding for student organization events and creating a more welcoming and inclusive campus.

“We will work endlessly to carry out our platform and will understand and take input from the student body throughout our terms,” Brinkman said during the SG debate Feb. 12.

To provide more transparency on the construction projects around campus, Vision plans to create a committee of students who will receive consistent updates from the Office of Construction Facilities and Auxiliary Operations.

It also has three main platform points to support graduate students: expanding the Baby Gator program for students who have children, increasing the travel grant for the Graduate Student Council and advocating for affordable graduate student housing through the student campus construction committee.

“It's of the utmost importance to us that graduates have a voice and will be maintained as an important group of people when it comes to deciding on our student government administration's policy,” Brinkman said.

One of Vision’s top priorities is the health and safety of the student body. To ensure student safety, it plans to provide a physical navigation system for Blue Lights, collaborate with the UF Police Department to ensure rapid responses to Blue Light activations and expand Nightlife Navigators.

For student health, Vision proposed excused mental health days and the re-establishment of the Food for Fines program, which allows students to pay TAPS parking fines through donations to the Field and Fork Pantry.

Aliza Khalil, a 19-year-old UF international studies and history sophomore, said she has been thinking about voting for Vision after hearing about its plans to reinstate Food for Fines.

“I really liked that point, so I think I'm leaning towards them,” she said.

Vision is looking to implement a funding injection into the SAI’s Signature Events Program, which organizes campus events that are acknowledged for the significant impact they’ve made on UF student engagement. This will provide organizations with the funding they need to put on bigger events and performances.

“Student organizations deserve to use every last dollar they're allocated,” Damera said during the SG debate Feb. 12. “Addressing persistent issues within the current funding model, we're committed to securing funding for organizations and their keystone events.”

Vision also plans to establish a school-wide diversity week, create a program of SG Pledges to stand against hate and draw a map of the various types of restrooms on campus.

“In the face of the consistent attacks against diversity, equity and inclusion from the state level, our administration is committed to championing initiatives that promote and maintain diversity, equity and inclusivity on campus,” Thomas said during the debate.

Vision candidates declined to provide comment to The Alligator after multiple texts, Instagram direct messages and emails.

Change Party

Change’s campaign is focused on protecting DEI funding, promoting student health and wellness, increasing voter accessibility, addressing student organization funding issues and providing students with transparency on SG affairs.

“We will find a way, a solution, to anything, because we don't want to sit on our hands,” Liang said. “Students deserve a lot more.”

To protect DEI funding, Change is looking to allocate about $200,000 per year to the Center for Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement. This would ensure that all the offices CIME oversees, including the Office of Asian Pacific Islander Desi Student Engagement, the Office of Black Student Government, the Office of Hispanic-Latinx Student Engagement and the Office of LGBTQ+ Student Engagement, get the funding they need to operate.

“I think it’s really important [to implement this funding] as the state continues its attacks on DEI and any sort of cultural programming,” Liang said.

To support student health and wellness, Change is looking to establish a ‘Mental Health Day’ once a semester, which would allow students to take a day off and enjoy mental health tabling events.

Change is also planning to provide free menstrual products in the Southwest Recreation Center and the Student Recreation and Fitness Center.

Regarding voter accessibility, Change said it will institute online voting and establish the Marston Science Library as a permanent voting location.

“We're looking to make Student Government more accessible to students so they don't have to put in so much effort just to vote,” Liang said. “We want to allow them to exercise their chance to speak on what they want to see.”

Change would also work to reform student organization funding. As it currently stands, the funding for student organizations is on a first come, first serve basis. This results in many identical spam submissions, with organizations fighting to be prioritized.

Change would amend the system so only the president or treasurer of each student organization has access to the funding form. The form would also require a UF ID and for the student to be registered with SAI or SG as the president or the treasurer of their respective student organization.

“That would decrease the spamming [of form submissions],” Gangano said.

To provide the student body with full transparency, Change’s executive candidates said they will work with UF Information Technology to increase engagement with the student body.

“Our mission of this executive team is largely to provide transparency to the student body from the Student Government,” Hendricks said. “The best way for the Student Government to serve its constituency, the student body, is to engage in active, open, honest and transparent communication.”

Paige Minkin, a 20-year-old UF environmental science sophomore, said she will vote for Change in the upcoming election because its platform points are more closely aligned with her beliefs and address the issues that directly affect her.

“Change has [initiatives] so broad throughout campus that no matter what you're studying, no matter where you live on campus, everything benefits everybody rather than just select students on campus,” she said.

Change holds 23 seats in Senate. It needs to win 42 seats to gain a majority.

For any questions regarding the upcoming election, students can contact Supervisor of Elections Ethan Halle or visit the SG office on the third floor of the Reitz Union.

Contact Annie Wang at awang@alligator.org. Follow her on X @wynwg.

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Annie Wang

Annie Wang is a first-year journalism major and a University General Assignment writer for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing reviews on Goodreads.


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