generic opinion

Do you ever have too much money laying around that you don’t want to spend on initiatives benefiting the student body? Student Government does and it just so happens to be time for our annual banquet.

Every year, a group of student “leaders” will gather in a designated area for a night of fancy food and awards. When I was a first-year student, despite at that point having already revealed myself to have been a rabble-rouser, I was invited to the SG banquet. Actually, every senator was, as the invite was sent over the Senate Listserv. How inclusive.

The next year, I wasn’t invited. In fact, not every Senator was invited. I suppose this makes sense, given the emergence of the minority party (and we know SG has a strained relationship with minorities), but I was surprised to eventually realize many Senate members from the majority party weren’t invited as well.

Nevertheless, I tried to go and was stopped at the door. I wrote about the incident in my column. If I had a meme in mind, it would be the clenched fist of Arthur, the bespectacled aardvark from many of our childhoods.

That night I found out the banquet is usually funded by SG’s external revenue, which is why members were able to close off the event to the peasants of UF. Using external revenue as the funding source also means SG gets to skirt around the financial regulations that normally govern how we fund events.

So what does SG do? It spends a lot of money on its banquet.

Next Wednesday, the banquet will be held at the Champions Club in the football stadium. Cost? $2,500. The program booklets will cost $600. Security will cost $504. SG lapel pins? That’ll be $510.42 for 400 of them.

Let’s talk about decor. We are paying, among other things, $150 for “green potted palm trees.” That’s hot. There’s also $400 being spent on “white polyester napkins folded rectangle style on guest table.” Nothing says “clout” like folded napkins. Anyhow, we are spending a total of $3,137 on decor so I guess those costs really add up.

There’s another student activity request, which are financial forms that students fill out for events, for awards. I really, really wonder what is going on with this one, since we’re apparently buying 32 awards priced at $82 apiece for a total of $2,624.

Finally, there’s food for the mere sum of $10,521. I love food. Let’s talk about the menu.

First, there are appetizers: We’ve got Italian meats and cheeses, Caprese skewers, fresh fruit, nuts, hummus, baked brie and veggies. “Crostinis & Crackers” are included. There’s also “shrimp & grits topped with a candied bacon skewer.”

Now on to the main course: we’ve got a chef-carved Texas-style BBQ brisket and Southern-style fried chicken. For the vegans, there are jackfruit sliders. On the side, there is baked macaroni & cheese with a panko bread crumb topping, Southern-style collard greens, “rustic” mashed potatoes with gravy, salad, fresh-baked sweet yeast rolls and warm biscuits with butter and jam.

For dessert, there are mini trifle dessert “shorts” in the flavors of key lime pie, mousse and peach cobbler. There are also traditional banana puddings with Nilla wafers, served in mini Mason jars, as well as mini sweet potato pie.

More than $10,000 for food to feed what should be around 150 people seems a little excessive. I don’t know if that’s sort of an unpopular opinion or something, but I guess I should say it.

All in all, we are slated to spend $20,396.42 on the SG banquet. Hi there, it’s unpopular opinion time again: I think that’s excessive.

Just over a decade ago, the Student Body president at the time canceled the banquet and donated over $15,000 to the Institute of Black Culture and the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures. This year, more than $20,000 will go toward a fancy banquet while Ian Green’s minority outreach program is still struggling to raise $1,000. But panko-breaded mac and cheese? Those pesky first-generation minorities can just figure out college on their own; I’m hungry!

Zachariah Chou is a UF political science junior and Murphree Area senator. His column appears on Fridays.