Students Raise Concerns at Student Government Meeting

Over 100 people were packed into the senate chamber to attend the UF Student Government Senate meeting Tuesday night.

Many students made an appearance to air their protests about the event, “ACCENT Speakers Presents: Donald Trump Jr. & Kimberly Guilfoyle,” featuring President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign.

Organizers from the #CHOMPTRUMP protest, such as Emily Hyden and Anton Kerohan, listed their demands from their press release published earlier Tuesday. Some of their demands called for the $50,000 booking fee to be reallocated to student organizations who lost their money earlier in the semester due to funding issues, for increased support from the Counseling and Wellness Center and for Student Body President Michael Murphy, ACCENT Chair Henry Fair and Student Body Treasurer Santiago Gutierrez to issue public apologies and resign from their positions.

Members of the Inspire Caucus recently tried passing a resolution calling for SG to condemn student fees being used to fund the ACCENT event. Inspire-affiliated District D Senator-Elect Ben Lima spearheaded this legislation, which was reportedly sponsored by two Gainesville city commissioners, an Alachua county school board member, community members, UF alumni, students and several student organizations including Volunteers for International Student Affairs and Pride Student Union.

The legislation Lima wrote was submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee but failed both times as quorum was not met. If it was passed by this committee, it would have been placed on the next senate meeting’s agenda.

“I find it awfully convenient [that members did not attend judiciary committee], considering how many of them seemed to be opposed to this legislation and are conveniently not able to hear it,” Lima said. “I think it’s really disrespectful to the students who have paid the student fees to this event, especially those who oppose event.”

“It is very disappointing and a blatant show of corruption to see the behavior of the majority party members leading up to tonight, and not being able to hear about it was a shame as well,” he continued.

The behavior Lima is referring to is how members of the Gator caucus were seen attending Senator orientation and then leaving five minutes before senate began.

This particular senate meeting was also intended to confirm the recent results from the Fall 2019 Student Government elections and welcome newly elected senators into the senate. However, the number of senators present was not enough to reach a quorum of 51, which meant newly elected senators were not able to be confirmed into the senate.

Minority party leader, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Senator Nikolas Bindi, explained what occurred last night.

“Because we didn’t meet quorum, we weren’t able to validate results,” Bindi said. “What that means: We are operating as if the Fall 2019 election has not occurred, so those new senators have not been voted in and are not sitting in senate.”

Bindi said the Replacement and Agenda committee will have to allow for another double meeting block where the election results can finally be discussed and confirmed.

When asked about senators walking out before senate, Bindi said it was “a blatant act of corruption to delay the certification of the election results. I don’t know what the endgame is because these results need to be certified, and there is nothing they can do to stop that.”

Newly elected senators were sitting in the chamber anxiously, awaiting their fates. 

Raisa Karim, a District D Senator-Elect, feels “nothing less than disappointment.”

“This is my last year at UF, so I’m no stranger to UF Student Government politics, and how dirty and how difficult it can get,” Karim said. “Honestly, if we can get the word out about what happened tonight, I don’t expect anything less than outrage from the student body. That’s what it’s all about – getting the word out, informing the student body about what’s happening in the chamber. I really hope that those that were not here today really made a mistake and have a change of heart.”

As last night was supposed to welcome new senators, one thing that did happen was that some senators said goodbye to the chamber, like former District D Senator Felipe Gatos.

Gatos ended his two-year term last night, supposedly as new senators were not confirmed.

 “It seems like [senators walking out] was purposeful,” Gatos said. “It was in order to not meet quorum so that we’re not allowed by the codes to make decisions, and therefore we could not validate election results – the same election where Inspire took a majority of the seats. It seems to me to be an act of corruption and undermining student voices, especially when several students came to speak about their concerns about the appearance of Donald Trump Jr. on campus this week.

“It shows that [Gator caucus] really is incredibly disconnected from the student body,” he continued. “They’re willing to do what it takes, like not showing up, to maintain their power. I have lost my faith in many senators of the Gator caucus and it’s really sad to leave the chamber like this.”