In UF’s Student Government’s first Senate meeting of Summer Tuesday night, senators unanimously passed legislation that would provide $500,000 toward rent relief for UF students and more funds to student organizations.
The bills will take effect if they are passed once more in next week’s Senate meeting.
The rent relief bill would transfer funds from the SG reserve account, an account that collects leftover funds at the end of each year that currently has over $4 million, to help students struggling to pay rent. It was passed unanimously.
The funds will be available to international students and DACA recipients, who are ineligible to receive money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, said co-author of the bill and Student Body President Trevor Pope during the meeting. However, those students will not be prioritized over others, he said, and the funds will be distributed objectively in accordance with Florida state statutes.
“A student being a DACA recipient or an international student will definitely be taken into consideration in showing that need,” Pope said during the meeting. “So by no means will those students be excluded in this spot.”
UF Director of Off Campus Life Nora Kilroy and Vice President of Student Affairs D’Andra Mull will appoint four to five faculty representatives to review the applications, Pope said. Others on the team include Liz Delaney, Assistant Director of SG Advising, Operations and Services, and a student representative, who will most likely be the SG Housing Affairs Cabinet Director, Pope said.
Applicants will remain anonymous during the application review process, Pope said during the meeting. The amount of money allocated to students will be determined by each student's individual needs.
These needs include a variety of financial costs caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, Pope wrote in an email to The Alligator.
Applications will be administered by UF’s Off Campus Life, and it will closely mirror the application for Aid-a-Gator, Pope wrote in an email to The Alligator. Further details about the application, such as how students will show need, are unclear at this time.
A bill that will allow leftover student organization funds to roll over from one semester to the next was also passed unanimously Tuesday. Both the rollover bill and the rent relief bill must be passed by Senate one more time before they can go into action. The next Senate meeting is May 19.
Student organizations have struggled with funding in the past. The funding system changed after Young Americans for Freedom sued UF last Summer, claiming that SG infringed upon its right to free speech after it denied the organization funding for a conservative speaker. Since then, student organizations have received funding on a first-come-first-served basis that has forced some groups to look for outside funding to continue operating as they have in the past.
Three resolutions, or declarations of opinions from the chamber, were also passed. One recommends that the university translate official UF emails to other languages besides English, such as Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.
The second resolution passed asked the university and the UF Department of Housing to provide additional resources to international students who have been affected by COVID-19. These resolutions are effective immediately.
Additional resources include financial support, as international and DACA students cannot receive funding from the CARES Act, and housing resources from the UF Department of Housing and Residence Education, said Kevin Trejos (Gator, Business), co-author of the resolution, in an interview.
Another passed resolution will recognize Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, which is this month. The resolution acknowledges the plight and successes of Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans, Trejos said in an interview with The Alligator.
The resolution also recognizes that since the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been more racism towards people in the Asian community, Trejos said.
In addition to the rent relief and student organizations bill, another bill was passed that will reorganize executive cabinet positions. The bill will create a new position, called the Transition Division Chairperson. This person will oversee several new directors, such as the First-Year Experience Director and the PaCE Director to help students transition into UF.
This bill needs to be passed by the Senate one more time before it can take effect.
During the meeting, Senator Zachery Utt (Inspire, Engineering) announced that he is co-authoring a new bill that would provide Wi-Fi hotspots to students who are struggling to maintain stable internet connection.
The bill would transfer $160,000 from the SG reserve account to fund the purchase of 900 hotspot devices from T-Mobile, Utt said in an interview. These devices can be shipped out to UF students in the U.S. and will provide an internet connection whether or not a student has T-Mobile, he said. He plans to submit it to the SG Budget and Allocations Committee, a group of senators that decide on finances within SG, by Friday.
If the bill is passed, a survey asking students to rate their internet reliability and speed will be sent out. The first people to receive the devices will be teaching assistants and people who lack internet access, Utt said.
“I hate to think about how many students didn't take Summer classes because they figured, ‘Gee, I literally do not have the infrastructure I need to do this,’” Utt said in an interview.
Several positions were also appointed, including Julia Cordover for the District A senate seat and Erin Carr for Student Honor Code Administration agency head. Armin Dastjerdi was appointed for Finance & Affordability cabinet director, and Paige Gryski was elected as Pathway to Campus Enrollment Affairs cabinet director.
After senators debated on a bill that would make plant-based food and gluten-free food mandatory at all SG sponsored events, it was sent back to the Budget and Appropriations Committee for revisions. Critics said the bill needed to better reflect the UF population by surveying UF student’s diets, rather than basing the bill off of broad surveys that reflect nationwide preferences.
This article has been updated to include additional information about an SG resolution that will recognize Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month and a bill that will reorganize executive cabinet positions, which were also both passed Tuesday.