When their representatives didn’t bring blue lights to Fraternity Drive, protesters brought the blue themselves.
About 200 students dressed in blue marched down the street Tuesday afternoon, demanding UF Student Government and UF administration install the blue emergency poles that provide instant communication with police.
Protesters gathered on Flavet Field with hopes of adding to the 357 existing blue lights on UF’s campus, said Emily Hyden, one of the protest organizers.
They followed student organizers Hyden, Samantha Gildea, Mark Merwitzer, Alfredo Ortiz, William Zelin and the Gainesville chapter of National Women’s Liberation, who led the march at 5 p.m.
Running up and down the sidewalk, Hyden’s forehead dripped with sweat from the 95 degree heat. The 20-year-old UF international studies junior was outraged that it got to this point.
Protesters echoed her megaphone chants, repeating, “Safety over system!” as they advanced down the hill of Fraternity Drive. Hyden said “the system” includes everyone who prevented the installation of the lights.
“Regardless of what allegiances you may have, safety for every Gator means more,” she said.
In Spring, the SG Senate failed to pass a resolution that would expand blue light coverage on fraternity row. A primary reason it didn’t pass was the failure to contact the Interfraternity Council presidents.
Christina Pugliese, a 19-year-old UF telecommunication sophomore, spoke on the Senate floor in Spring during public comment demanding support for placing blue lights on Fraternity Drive.
As a sexual assault survivor, she said she felt like she was speaking into a void, so she took to the streets to protest.
“If I had it my way, every single fraternity would have a blue light on it, but we don’t have that,” she said. “We gotta take it one step at a time.”
When the votes on the bill tied, Senate President Libby Shaw voted no, despite originally sponsoring it and co-founding the Panhellenic Sister Support Ambassador program, which aims to counsel women in sororities who have experienced sexual assault.
After calls, texts, emails and in-person communication, Shaw would not speak on her voting record.
Student Body President Michael Murphy published a Letter to the Editor on Sunday. He did not respond to requests for further comment Tuesday evening.
Murphy wrote that blue lights would be a “tremendous waste” of student fees. Instead, Murphy and University Police urge students to download the GATORSAFE app, which acts as a “mobile blue light” in case of emergencies.
He also wrote that protesters were using “scare tactics” to negatively portray Greek life.
Irfan Kovankaya, a 22-year-old UF political science senior, said wanting blue lights isn’t about being “anti-Greek life.” He said it’s a matter of accountability.
While Kovankaya marched alongside victims of sexual assault and advocates, fraternity brothers looked down upon protesters from the windows of their lettered houses laughing, pointing and taking photos.
The Interfraternity Council released a statement on Friday saying it was “not opposed” to blue lights on Fraternity Drive.
"If you aren’t doing anything wrong, they shouldn’t have a problem with a blue light being in their area,” Kovankaya said.
Olivia Shaw, an 18-year-old UF chemistry freshman, said she did not expect to feel unrepresented during her first month in college. Living in Springs Complex, which is a dorm on Fraternity Drive, having blue lights outside would make her feel more safe.
Shaw’s mother drove from Tampa to Gainesville to march with her daughter.
“I’m disappointed in the university and how it seems to be disregarding the safety of its students even though it sells at Preview that there are blue lights everywhere on campus for safety,” Shaw said. “But clearly that’s not true.”