The last regular UF Student Government Senate meeting of Summer A semester took an unexpected turn when two senators, Ben Lima (Inspire, District D) and Senate Minority Leader Ashley Grabowski (Inspire, Graduate), lost their seats.
The senators lost their seats after being declared constructively absent by Senate President Libby Shaw. This put them over the maximum absence limit.
Grabowski and Lima have argued the loss of their seats is not valid because constructively absent is not a term defined in the SG Rules and Procedures. Additionally, they were not removed by the sergeant-at-arms, who Shaw said was absent from the meeting.
Shaw wrote in an email that the Student Senate cannot physically remove members, which was why the constructive absence was created.
“It is always outlined and explained at orientation for all incoming senators, and has a strong historical precedent embedded in the student senate,” Shaw said.
Shaw said she thinks Grabowski and Lima are trying to combine the procedure removal with constructive absence procedure, even though the two issues are separate.
Shaw will petition the Student Body Supreme Court for a ruling on the constitutionality of her use of the constructive absence.
Since losing their seats, Grabowski and Lima have been trying to appeal the decision.
Grabowski said they have been collecting statements of support from students and alumni. They currently have over 150.
Grabowski has also reached out to UF faculty members, the UF Board of Trustees, the Dean of Students, President Fuchs and the General Counsel’s office.
She and Lima will be meeting with Kim Pace, the assistant vice president of student affairs, next Tuesday.
Grabowski said she submitted an appeal to the Senate Rules and Ethics Committee on June 25, but hasn’t received a response
There will be people speaking on their behalf during public debate at Tuesday’s Senate meeting, including someone reading some of the statements of support they’ve collected, Grabovski said.
“If nothing internally at UF works, we’re open to pursuing other avenues outside of the university,” Grabowski said. “We will make sure this gets handled one way or another.”
Editors' note: This story has been updated as of Tuesday afternoon to correct the language of Rule 1 section 4(b) ii to "individuals" instead of "senators."