SG debate

Inspire (left) and Gator Party (right) executive candidates argued in their first Student Government debate.

Student Body executive candidates from Gator and Inspire Party got together Tuesday night to debate on topics such as diversity, sexual assault and personal political beliefs. 

Inspire Party’s candidate for Student Body President, Matthew Diaz, was absent from the debate because he was sick. Matthew Barocas, candidate for Student Body Treasurer, and Emily Hyden, candidate for Student Body Vice President, represented Inspire Party.

Trevor Pope, candidate for Student Body President, Lauredan Official, candidate for Student Body Vice President, and Jessica Jesurajan, candidate for Student Body Treasurer, represented Gator Party.

In Inspire’s opening statement, Barocas talked about racial and gender equity, sexual assault on campus and funding for student organizations. 

“Diversity shouldn’t just be for show,”  Barocas said. “Funding for student organizations needs to be taken seriously.”

In Gator’s opening statement, Pope discussed his involvement on campus and said that UF needs to be more inclusive and accessible for students. He also said that Student Government needs better leadership.

“At the end of this debate, I hope we can come together and remember that we all want to make this university a better place,” Pope said.

Pope said Gator plans to improve representation by actively seeking out underrepresented groups, such as non-traditional students in PaCE and Innovation Academy. He also said they want to work with transfer, international and graduate students.

Hyden said Gator Party makes SG cabinets, committees of people focused on specific issues, for underrepresented students. Hyden argued it’s not effective because cabinets, such as LGBTQ+ affairs, remain empty.

“This isn’t representation if there are no people actually in the categories representing you,” Hyden said.

Jesurajan said if she gets elected, she will ensure all student organizations have access to some funding. She also said she wants to raise awareness and representation for graduate and professional students. 

Barocas said Gator Party did not address funding issues for student organizations after a lawsuit from the UF Young Americans for Freedom. He said Inspire Party will even the playing field for all student organizations.

Both parties agreed that online voting would be beneficial. Hyden said online voting would end the “I Voted” sticker process in Greek houses, which she said excludes students. She also said it would increase voter turnout and allow students studying abroad or off-campus to vote.

Gator Party addressed the impeachment process for Student Body President Michael Murphy. Pope said personal political and ideological beliefs do not belong in SG. He said speakers and performers should appeal to the masses.

Barocas argued that Gator Party denied the right of the impeachment inquiry to be heard by the UF Senate. He agreed that there should not be personal political opinions in SG.

Pope accused Inspire Party of recording Progressive Party’s transphobic remarks and said that they weaponized LGBTQ+ issues for political gain.

“If that’s something you can stand behind, then you should probably rethink your party affiliation,” Pope said.

Hyden said the most important issue impacting UF students is safety. She said she wants to extend SNAP and Uber Safe Rides hours and work with Green Dot and GatorWell.

Pope said the biggest issue facing UF students is opportunity. He said he wants to support and fund the “Bridges” minority outreach program to extend opportunities to high school students.

During closing remarks, both parties criticized each other. Hyden said Gator Party only sees diversity to be skin deep and said that they didn’t fix funding issues. Jesurajan said that Inspire Party does not follow through on its three pillars of inclusivity, transparency and accountability.

“The University of Florida deserves better,” Hyden said. “You deserve better.”

Contact Meghan McGlone at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @meggmcglone.  

Meghan is the Student Government Reporter this semester. She was previously a general assignment reporter and news assistant, and she’s majoring in English and minoring in economics at UF. Meghan loves horror movies, sour candy and her dog, Alice.