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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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During the Spring semester, the Student Senate passed laws and resolutions covering issues ranging from rebuking ACCENT and Student Government Productions Agency for inviting Nelly to calling upon UF to address climate change and move away from fossil fuels. 

Looking ahead at the summer session, senators agreed on the budget, redrawing of the voting districts and keeping Marston open 24/7 are top ticket items students should keep a close eye on.

Budget issues

Sen. Allan Rivera-Jaramillo (Independent-Keys-Springs) said the status of Marston Science Library remaining 24/7 will “probably be the elephant in the room” when the Student Senate goes into session May 14. 

Marston used to be 24/7 under UF Student Government funding before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In January 2023, it was announced the Office of the Provost would fund Marston’s 24-hour services for the Fall and Spring 2023 semesters as a pilot study to collect data on overnight hour usage.

Sen. Anamika Naidu (Change-Beaty Towers) said the Senate doesn’t directly fund Marston through its budget process.

“Theoretically, a senator could just write a reserve transfer to do it,” Naidu said. “The problem is none of us have information about how much Marston costs. As far as I know, the only person that knows about that right now would be in the executive branch.” 

Students should pay attention to when the 2025-2026 budget gets decided, Naidu said. The budget, which typically totals more than $20 million, is used to fund student clubs and services. 

“The budget happens over the summer, so students don't really tend to notice,” Naidu said. “It is one of the more important things that we do.” 

Naidu said there has been no increase in funding to account for inflation or the rise in the minimum wage, and organizations like sports clubs may experience budget cuts. 

For students, the funds could impact the ability of clubs they’re involved in.

“I think the student government should actually fund the student clubs in a smarter way,” said Yijia Zhao, a 22-year-old rising digital arts and sciences senior. 

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Zhao said it’s hard for smaller clubs to compete for funding with bigger clubs. The Society of Software Engineering is one club Zhao thinks isn’t receiving enough funding. 

“It’s hard to actually get our people together to do any very substantial activities, such as inviting speakers to the club or getting more important opportunities, for example, like internships,” he said.  

The Big Five to Four Act — a series of four bills that were passed and merged Student Activities & Involvement with Sorority & Fraternity Affairs to create Student Engagement — streamlined the budgeting process for the Senate.

“Whereas the budgets would usually be split,” said Sen. Allan Rivera-Jaramillo (Independent-Keys-Springs). “Now those two areas of student involvement have a bigger budget together.” 

The Big Four that now submit their budget requests to the Senate are RecSports, the Reitz Union, Student Engagement and Student Government.

Gabriel Wong, an 18-year-old rising computer science sophomore, said he would like the student government to remove laundry fees. 

“Laundry fees do pile up,” he said. “It seems so little and insignificant at first… but as the semester goes, you realize how much you're actually spending on that.” 

Student Government has a tendency to not deliver on its promises, Wong added. 

The Student Government reinstated the Stay Fresh Laundry Grant in January, which allows students to apply online for a $30 grant to be used for washing and drying on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are depleted. 

23 members of Vision Party were contacted by The Alligator but did not respond in time for publication. 

Reapportionment

The UF Supreme Court passed a controversial apportionment map in September 2023 that some senators accused of amounting to gerrymandering. Reapportionment, the redrawing of the maps for the next election, will take place during Summer B. 

“Way more people are voting in Districts A and B,” said Sen. Anamika Naidu (Change-Beaty Towers). “Far more minorities live in Districts C and D…By lumping all of these districts into one mass district, there are far more voters in District A and B. So District A and B, despite having less people, will now control the outcome of the election for all four districts.” 

When the Senate begins redrawing maps in Summer B, Naidu hopes students will hold SG accountable to ensure election maps accurately represent the students who live there.

“It's very important that students are looking to UF Senate this summer and saying, 'Hey, we're watching you guys draw these maps, and we want them to be fair,’” Naidu said. 

Sen. Meagan Lamey (Change-Yulee Area) also highlighted the importance of reapportionment. 

“I think that's really important for students to kind of be in the loop about this because it definitely does affect them, like having a 37-seat at-large district model, like if you live in District D, for example, basically your vote is not really getting counted because it's so diluted by people in District A,” she said.

23 members of Vision Party were contacted by The Alligator but did not respond in time for publication. 

The spring session in review

A first-of-its-kind environmental bill, mental health provisions and a censure were among the key pieces of legislation Student Government passed in its Spring session. 

UF Student Senate made national headlines in February after it passed the first public university Green New Deal in the country. The resolution, written in five volumes, called for UF to adopt plans related to climate change and to transition away from fossil fuels. The bill passed unanimously Feb. 21. 

There’s still work to be done for Lamey (Change-Yulee Area), one of the bill’s co-authors. 

“We have been kind of working on it in the background… like talking to different faculty about it and setting up meetings,” she said. “There will definitely be more to come on that.”

Change Party senators also wrote two resolutions that censured former Student Government Productions Agency Head Luke Holderman and former ACCENT Agency Head Samuel Hendler for inviting the rapper Nelly to campus, who was accused of sexual assault and rape. 

Naidu said the resolutions were important to the values of the student body.

“You have to bring speakers with no moral turpitude,” Naidu said. 

Student Government passed the SGP and Accent Integrity, Negotiation and Transparency Act in 2023, which said Student Government Productions should not try to invite any organization or person onto campus that has committed sex-related crimes with “reasonably compelling evidence.”

“Essentially, the people that you bring have to be enriching for the student body is the premise of the law,” Naidu said. 

A series of four bills called The Behavioral & Legislative Advocacy for Necessary Clinical Education (BALANCE) were significant to Sen. Allan Rivera Jaramillo (Independent-Keys-Springs) for addressing UF students facing mental health issues. 

The bills focused on expanding mental health resources, including eating disorders, microaggressions, OCD & ADHD and additional Counseling and Wellness Center satellite offices. 

For Rivera-Jaramillo, the bills were encouraging signs of campus support for mental health resources.

“Being somebody who has used these resources in the past, it's definitely awesome to see that the Senate really wants to push forth for the expansion of the services on campus and even off campus for the satellite offices,” Rivera-Jaramillo said. “Everybody needs these resources more and more.”

23 members of Vision Party were contacted by The Alligator but did not respond in time for publication. 

Contact Timothy Wang at wang.ttong@ufl.edu. Follow him on X @timothyw_g.


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Timothy Wang

Timothy Wang is a third-year journalism major and the university administration reporter for The Alligator. He likes gaming (Cyberpunk 2077 currently), reading manga and watching shows in his spare time. 


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