Hey Gators! As election day at UF gets closer and closer, there is always a certain amount of negative campaigning that takes place before students vote. With that said, Zachariah Chou’s mischaracterization of his record and criticisms of Student Government go a step too far.
On a website published by the Inspire Party this past Tuesday, Chou claims that SG delayed implementing live-streaming Student Senate meetings in order to avoid transparency with the Student Body. This claim could not be further from the truth. SG and the Impact Party have worked with SG Information Technology for the better part of a year creating a live-streaming website and platform for students at UF to view Senate meetings. We even began the procurement process for a permanently installed ceiling camera, as well as front-facing monitors for use during meetings. Ultimately, this will be a much less awkward implementation of Senate live-streaming than Chou’s current process on Facebook Live.
Inspire campaign material goes on to criticize the past Impact Student Body President for vetoing legislation that “will make your jaw drop.” Here, Inspire is, in fact, correct that the predecessor vetoed the “Student Body Accessibility Act,” which would have required the executive branch to include closed captioning on all SG videos. What they failed to mention, however, was his reasoning for doing so — Inspire drafted an unconstitutional bill. Specifically, the legislative branch does not have the constitutional authority to make rules and codes that the executive branch has to follow, no matter how noble the intentions. Beyond that, Inspire failed to mention that we, as the executive branch, were already including closed captioning as well as transcripts on our videos and continue to do so to this day under my administration.
Finally, Chou claims that he and his party are responsible for more street lighting around Infinity Hall and 24/7 operating hours at Library West. Again, while his party is a strong supporter of these resources, they mislead students on their involvement. The project for increased street lighting around Infinity Hall began when Student Body President Susan Webster organized a nighttime lighting tour of the area surrounding Infinity Hall. Webster picked up the Mayor of Gainesville, UF Chief Operating Officer Charlie Lane, and UPD Chief Stumpf in a GOTCHA car, and drove around the residence hall with a light gauge, showing just how dark the streets got at night. As a result of this project, we now have the new lights you see today.
As for Library West, UF could always use more study space on campus as we strive to be a top five public institution, but I disagree with Chou on how we should get there. Chou demanded we raise your student fees to fund this priority, but with a little time and by fostering positive relationships with Provost Joseph Glover and other administrators, I was able to expand 24/7 library hours for three years without raising student fees by even one cent. This represents a primary difference between the leadership of Impact and the leadership of Inspire, and I can say with confidence that Chou’s online petitions actually made my decisions with administrators more difficult as the petition was inaccurate and misleading.
When I took office, I swore to be a Student Body President to all Gators, including SG officers who aren’t affiliated with my party. I have met with countless students and Inspire senators who have reached out to me or have come to my office hours. In fact, those Inspire senators that met with me led to supported legislation on making UF more sustainable and the funding of a blue light pole system by Graham Hall. On the other hand, Chou has only met with me to mostly say that I was wrong and his short-term Library West fix was better than my long-term strategy. In retrospect, I wish that Chou would have been more of a collaborator during my term like other Senators, instead of trying to cherry-pick the over 40 initiatives my administration has been able to accomplish for the student body.
Looking to the future, I hope that all Gators currently running to serve the student body will campaign with respect and honesty. Even in the heat of an upcoming election, our students deserve better.
Ian Green is the UF Student Body President.