tudent and community activists criticized UF’s lack of action on environmental and mental health issues Wednesday night.
These topics of concern, alongside plans of action, were presented by students, faculty and residents at the first “UF Campus Coalition Teach-In.”
The Alachua County Labor Coalition suggested starting the event to bring the Gainesville and UF communities together to coordinate their ideas, said Ashley Nguyen, a coalition coordinator.
About 50 members of the Gainesville community came out to the event in Turlington Hall. The event was followed by public discussion.
Gainesville mayoral candidate Jenn Powell attended the event and said she was interested in hearing about the university’s energy consumption to learn about getting UF’s main campus on the Gainesville Regional Utilities grid.
“I’m not a politician,” Powell said. “I’m an activist.”
The two-hour teach-in was the first of a potential monthly series held by the Alachua County Labor Coalition at the university, said Nguyen, a 20-year-old UF international studies and political science junior.
“My hopes, and that of the people presenting, is that more students will get involved in these issues,” Nguyen said. “And pushing for the university to accommodate for these commands.”
The topic of UF’s energy consumption began with Wendell Porter, a UF assistant research scientist of agricultural and biological engineering. He discussed how UF sources its energy and the environmental impact it has in Gainesville, expressing concern for the lack of enforcement of its carbon neutrality position.
Porter was followed by Divest UF, a campus organization of students, faculty and community members who aim to challenge UF’s investment in fossil fuels. The organization is campaigning a Student Government resolution to cut all ties with fossil fuel companies within five years.
“The time is here to change how we get our power on campus,” Porter said.
The next topic presented was mental health on campus, starting with Zachariah Chou, a UF SG Murphree area senator and UF Student Body presidential candidate. Chou presented a history of the Counseling and Wellness Center through archived The Alligator articles and discussed its fluctuations in funding.
Chou was followed by Othelia Jumapao, who spoke about mental health and diversity, and then the co-chairs of the Graduate Assistants United at UF, who advocated for mental health programs for graduate students.
“You also have to find a counselor that’s right for you,” Chou said. “You might as well do that at UF where it’s free.”
Cheyenne Cheng, a 21-year-old UF psychology senior, found the event to be a call to action and plans to attend monthly.
“It was not just to learn but how to progress,” Cheng said.