Three chairs remained empty onstage at the Reitz Union Rion Ballroom. Realizing they wouldn’t be filled, Inspire candidates moved their chairs down to the floor.
The Gator Chapter of NAACP’s “A Guide to Higher Learning” SG debate on racial equity was converted into a town hall Thursday night after no one from Gator Party attended.
Gator Student Body presidential candidate Trevor Pope said he was unable to attend because he has a midterm today.
“I didn’t feel like I could appropriately prepare for my exam if I was doing this debate,” he said. “I just wanted to give them the respect they deserve.”
Gator Student Body vice presidential candidate Lauredan Official said he had an exam tonight and his best friend’s birthday dinner. Gator Student Body candidate for treasurer Jessica Jesurajan said she was in Tampa to visit her hometown dance studio. They all notified the chapter’s president and event organizer, Mackintosh Joachim, ahead of time.
Joachim said that he didn’t reschedule the event because he planned it in advance and he didn’t think he should have to.
“Regardless of anything, I don’t think I should have been able to reschedule because of the topic itself,” he said. “Why should racial equity be taking a second seat at the debate?”
Inspire candidates discussed racial equity issues on UF’s campus and their plans to improve them. Moderators Joachim and the chapter’s political action committee chair Stephon Adams asked candidates questions about their party’s plans to improve racial equity, and then the floor was opened to audience questions.
About 20 people attended including Inspire Party candidate for Student Body President Matthew Diaz, candidate for Student Body Vice President Emily Hyden and candidate for Student Body Treasurer Matthew Barocas. Most of the audience members were affiliated with Inspire.
Candidates discussed solutions to the student organization funding crisis. Barocas said Inspire hopes to give student groups equal access to information they need to secure and guarantee funding for keystone events on campus.
“These are big, annually reoccurring events, like the Black Student Assembly and the Asian American Student Assembly, that really mark people’s experiences here at UF,” Barocas said.
Instead of spending $20,000 on the SG banquet, Diaz said that money should be allocated to the Bridges program, which works with minority high school students to increase diversity on campus. He said supporting Bridges will start the process of raising UF’s “F” rating for racial representation, but it will take time.
Hyden said UF’s 2018 and 2019 undergraduate demographics reflect that the program is not reaching its potential. She said only 2 percent of undergraduates are black males and 4 percent are black females. According to UF’s enrollment facts website, in 2019, 4.76 percent of male undergraduates were black and 6.54 percent of female undergraduates were black.
An audience member asked Inspire candidates what they personally think is the biggest issue for students. Diaz said he plans to prioritize increasing accessibility to mental health resources on campus and break down the “wall of formality” that stops students from using it. Hyden added that Inspire is already working to add information about these resources on Canvas.
Hyden said she thinks the biggest issue facing the student body is campus safety, and she wants to expand SNAP hours, double the Uber Safe Rides discount to 50 percent off and provide students drink testing kits that test for drugs.
In the closing statement delivered, Hyden said Gator Party only cares about diversity during elections, but she hopes that Inspire will be able to fight for minority students for much longer.
“Performative diversity is not diversity,” she said.