Over the course of three weeks, the UF Student Government committee postponed three bills that would support civil rights issues on UF’s campus and beyond.
The SG Judiciary Committee, a group of senators who decide what non-budget legislation goes to senators to be voted on, indefinitely postponed three resolutions related to civil rights issues during two meetings on July 8 and July 24.
One resolution would urge the university to review the names of all buildings on campus. Another supports Florida State University’s Student Government Senate for removing former Student Senate President Jack Denton after his transphobic remarks came to light, and a third resolution asks UF to end prison slave labor immediately.
And between the three postponed resolutions, the former Judiciary Committee chair resigned and a new one was elected.
Here’s a breakdown of the resolutions and meetings:
The resolution standing with the LGBTQ+ community is postponed twice
On July 8, the Judiciary Committee indefinitely postponed a resolution supporting FSU’s Senate’s decision to remove their Student Senate President after his transphobic remarks came to light. On July 24, they postponed it again.
Sen. Bruce Glasserman (Inspire, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) co-wrote a resolution supporting FSU’s Senate’s decision to remove their Student Senate President because transphobia and bigotry should not be tolerated at a distinguished university, Glasserman said.
FSU’s Student Senate voted Denton out of his position June 5 after screenshots of a groupchat show him criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement because it “fosters ‘a queer affirming network’ and defends transgenderism,” according to FSUNews.com.
Glasserman transferred from FSU to UF during Fall because he said he felt he could do better academically at UF. He still considers himself a Seminole and a Gator, so he felt it was important to speak up for the LGBTQ+ community and his previous school.
“We need to make clear that a revolting example of transphobia and bigotry doesn't have a place at a distinguished university and it doesn't have a place within our student government,” Glasserman said.
The Judiciary Committee postponed the resolution indefinitely July 8 after some members of the committee argued that the resolution only shows one side of the story, as there could be more information that they are unaware of because Denton had hired a lawyer. Some members also argued that the resolution doesn’t have anything to do with UF.
Other members of the Judiciary Committee argued that SG has spoken up about issues not directly related to UF before. Senate passed a resolution involving international issues June 2 that supported the U.S. Senate’s approval of a bill that condemned human rights abuses in China towards the Uyghur people.
Sen. Marcus Nelson (Gator, Beaty Towers), a member of the Judiciary Committee, objected to postponing the resolution indefinitely and said that the committee should stand up for human rights.
“Supporting civil rights doesn’t have to be hard, guys,” Nelson said at the end of the meeting.
During the resolution’s second hearing July 24, it was postponed indefinitely again for reasons similar to the July 8 meeting.
Members of the committee asked Glasserman to repeat the phrases that Denton wrote, and Sen. Sydney White (Gator, Business) used the term “transgenderism” in one of her questions to Glasserman.
The term “transgenderism” is disrespectful and dehumanizing to transgender people, according to GLAAD. White did not respond to The Alligator’s emails requesting comment.
When asked why the resolution was postponed again, Judiciary Chair Franco Luis wrote in an email to The Alligator that “the committee voted that way.” He did not respond to The Alligator’s question asking on what basis it failed.
Other members of the Judiciary Committee did not respond to The Alligator’s emails asking why they voted to postpone the resolution again.
Minority party leader Shawn Zimmer motioned to add the resolution to the agenda during Senate July 21 so senators could vote on it, but Senate President Kyle Garner did not add it because it had been postponed indefinitely.
According to Senate rules, bills that failed or were postponed indefinitely in committees cannot be added to the agenda during Senate. However, bills in that had previously failed have been successfully added to the agenda in the past, such as a resolution asking UF to assemble a working group to further research UF’s history with slavery and Native American removal.
The resolution urging UF to review the names of campus buildings is postponed
Also on July 8, the Judiciary Committee indefinitely postponed a resolution urging UF to evaluate the names of prominent buildings on campus, such as the J. Wayne Reitz Union and Stephen C. O’Connell Center. It was not heard July 24, and Luis did not answer questions asking if it was supposed to be heard.
Judiciary member Marcus Nelson co-wrote the resolution. This comes after years of students asking for the removal of the names of Stephen C. O'Connell and J. Wayne Reitz from campus, and a recent wave of petitions for the university to change the names.
Student Body Vice President Lauredan Official is a sponsor on the resolution. He said he sponsored it because he is Black, and he said buildings named after racist and homophibic people should be renamed.
“We’re honoring a legacy that shouldn’t be honored,” he said. “It’s an odd thing where a university, where people go as a stepping stone to be successful, is in some way or another honoring the actions that these figures have done.”
The executive committee is in support of the resolution, Official said. He said he hopes the Judiciary Committee works to amend the resolution in order to get this to Senate and pass it.
During debate at the Judiciary Committee, some members of the committee said that UF was already looking into the names of buildings on campus, citing UF President Kent Fuch’s announcement June 18 that UF would review historical monuments or names on buildings “that UF can control that celebrate the Confederacy or its leaders.”
However, Nelson said that based on Fuch’s announcement, UF is only looking into buildings related to the Confederacy, not issues relating to racism or LGBTQ+ issues.
Nelson was the only member of the committee who voted against postponing the resolution. Four other members of the committee voted to postpone it. Nelson declined to comment on the committee’s decisions, and other members present during the meeting did not respond to The Alligator’s emails asking why they voted to postpone it.
The Judiciary Chair resigns, and a new one is elected
Following the Judiciary meeting on July 8 where two resolutions about FSU’s Senate President and UF’s building’s names were postponed, former Judiciary Chair Seth Longland resigned to focus on himself and his mental health, he wrote in an email to The Alligator.
He declined to comment on any questions about the meeting and the resolutions, and he said his decision to resign did not have to do with any legislation.
A new Judiciary Chair, Sen. Franco Luis (Gator, District B), was elected July 21. Luis, a former member of the Judiciary Committee, has only written one piece of legislation since becoming a senator in Spring.
When asked what experience he had with legislation and whether he wanted to comment on only writing one piece during his time in the Senate, Luis wrote in an email to The Alligator that his experience as a member of the Judiciary Committee since mid April provided him with valuable experience.
To replace Luis’ former spot on the Judiciary Committee, majority party leader Gabi Zlatanoff (Gator, District A) was elected onto the committee July 21, too.
A new Judiciary Chair, another postponed resolution
During the Judiciary Meeting July 24, the committee indefinitely postponed a resolution asking UF to end prison slave labor immediately. This follows UF President Kent Fuchs’ announcement June 18 that the university will stop relying on prison and jail inmates to provide labor in agricultural operations.
Will Boose, co-founder of Coalition to Abolish Prison Slavery, or CAPS, co-wrote the resolution because UF’s prison labor contracts don’t end until July 1, 2021. The 24-year-old UF Spring graduate said he hopes this resolution pressures UF administrators to end the contracts now.
“Prison slave labor is wrong today, it’ll be wrong tomorrow and it’ll be wrong next July when UF plans to end it,” Boose said.
During debate at the Judiciary Committee, some members of the committee said that UF already addressed the issue, because the contracts are “expiring sooner rather than later.” Other committee members were concerned about the financial ramifications UF would face if it ended the contracts early.
The contracts do not mention any cancellation fees or financial repercussions for canceling, according to contracts obtained by The Alligator.
Boose said the only difficulty UF would face is finding a way to replace the labor — which is the administrators’ jobs to figure out, he added.
Nelson was the only committee member present that voted not to postpone the resolution. After voting no, he said “It’s slavery guys, come on.”
“Geez guys, if you’ve got people working in fields and stuff for like $2 an hour, it’s pretty messed up,” Nelson said during the meeting.
When asked why the resolution was postponed indefinitely, Luis wrote in an email to The Alligator that “the committee voted that way.” He did not respond to The Alligator’s question asking on what basis it failed.
Chasity Maynard contributed to this report.