UF Senate Diversity Strike Down: Empowerment or Apathy?
Who knew a gay army veteran and a Native-American weren’t diverse enough for the UF Supreme Court?
Apparently, here at the University of Florida, our Student Senate claims that this is just the case. These two nominees were appointed by UF Student Body President Joselin Padron-Rasines on February 10th, and they were both reject on the terms of not being “diverse enough” because neither were female.
Adam Trumbly is the only Native-American student in second-year law class. Not to mention, only .5% of all UF students are Native-American. Yet despite Trumbly’s qualifications, he’s still doesn’t meet the system’s agenda.
Kenneth Cunningham, Padron-Rasines’ other nominee, would have been the first openly gay veteran to serve on the court. But the Senate also claims Cunningham doesn’t quite check off the diversity box they were looking for. Silly me for thinking that our LGBTQ+ and veteran community already had enough representation.
For Padron-Rasines, this is a personal attack on her because of her own friction with the Student Senate, who waited two months to even hear her appointments just to eliminate them in one vote. The Senate doesn’t gain any political advancement by shooting down these nominations – they’re just able to build up an even bigger partisan barrier.
Technically, the Senate can deny the Student Body President’s nomination on account of any reason, but the reason they chose largely angers many students. Some see the Senate as only playing petty games and using these nominations as an excuse to throw out ‘diversity’ as a key word — only when it could be used as their own ammo to shame Padron-Rasines. Never before has the reasoning “these nominees are not female and therefore not diverse” been used to deny prospective candidates for any position on student government. Yet they claim that Padron-Rasines should have included more gender-diversity in her choices. She is furious that they would use diversity for their own gain despite not having any substantial reasoning behind their vote.
After the results became public, controversy spread across campus. Students seemed rallied up over social media that “The System” still continued to strike at attempts to expand our student government. This thus created a smaller second wave at the #NotMySystem movement.
Others took more of a stance than posting a status and complaining with peers over tacos. Students Nardin Derias and Audrey Guerra attempted to round up those with similar frustrations at the partisan system and created the Diversity Awareness Rally, which is independent from NMS. On its Facebook Page, 1.4K people were invited and claims that 31 went. However, in reality, only four people actually showed up.
Where are all of those who were retweeting #NotMySystem on Twitter when real activism came around? It felt like a failure to those who attended the rally, and a slap in the face from these “internet activists.” Unlike NMS, the Diversity Awareness Rally was one of the first attempts to get off the keyboard and out on the streets. Not much can get done, even in a student democracy, if one does not take real action.
Even with just a tiny group, Derias and Guerra had students write down ideas in attempts to make campus more accepting and inclusive. Then they marched to Tigert Hall dressed in white to deliver the banner of ideas along with a letter to the Office of the President.
The protest may not have been as successful as hoped, but these activists did accomplish a potential meeting with President Fuchs to discuss these problems. The organizers have just aimed to put more pressure on the Student Senate to make changes and bring attention to its lip-service.
Yesterday, April 19th, the Senate had another meeting and further refused to hear the same Supreme Court nominees again due to small code violations. Trumbly signed up for a minute of public debate with the Senate and used the whole minute to silently stare them down, while most senators tried to avoid eye-contact.
More than 20 other students also stood up to speak to the Senate, and most of them shamed the Senate for using diversity as the reasoning for not accepting the nominees.
During the same meeting, the Senate approved the nominees for various agency heads. Out of the 14 nominations, all were Greek and only one was a minority. The Senate had no objection to diversity at these nominees.
A relatively large group of protesters also turned up to the event with an organized “Shame on Senate” protest. Many law students expressed their distaste, and the Access Party displayed their disgust at the Court nominee rejections and Greek appointments to the agency heads.
A push from student minorities to make change in our student government seems to be a lasting theme for the University of Florida. Some may complain that these “microaggressions” are being magnified into something they’re not. Others don’t care much for how Student Government is conducted. All in all, maybe it’s just a bunch of kids acting out a far less dramatic version of “House of Cards” in order to spice up their own resumes. But regardless, our system, whether or not truly impactful, should be open to protest from its students. It should recognize its own failures to be bipartisan and accepting to all students despite race, gender, class, sexuality, etc.
Updated: 4/20/2016 3:30pm
Featured photo courtesy of: Unsplash