By: Leah Palmer
-Year in college: First
-Major: Economics and Political Science
-Role in SG: Senator for Hume Hall
When and how did you decide to get involved with student government?
After I got accepted into UF, I started reading about the Student Government. As a supporter of democracy and self-determination, I thought it was really cool how the student body had the authority to allocate a portion of its tuition (the student activity fee) through its representation in the Senate. In high school student government, we had to raise our own money through fundraisers like car washes, which is much less fun than raising revenues through what is basically a tax. I also read about how there had been no competition for several semesters in SG elections, as almost all races had only one candidate on the ballot. This seemed unfair, not to mention unusual, so I kept an ear out for a new party to support.
What drew you to the Inspire party?
I first heard of Inspire Party at meeting of the Florida Political Review, where I overheard FPR’s Editor-in-Chief, Ben Lima, talk about how he was founding a new SG political party to compete in the Fall Senate elections. I ultimately decided to slate (interview to be a candidate) with Inspire Party because in talking its leadership, I found an honest appreciation for my vision of what the UF Student Government, and any student government, ought to be: an inclusive institution with meritocracy at its heart that teaches democratic values to future leaders. Their goals extended beyond winning elections, to elevating and expanding discourse about student politics.
This year’s election cycle has been especially intense, with increased voter turnout. What do you think about this? Do you think this is the start of a trend?
I think the Inspire Party platform did a good job of addressing longstanding concerns of the student body. It gave students, many of whom had never voted before, a reason to participate in student democracy. Clearly, there’s demand for more than one party—in other words, some choice and competition—in student politics. So long as there’s healthy competition in student politics, voter turnout will continue to increase.
What would you tell students, especially Honors students, who are thinking about getting involved with student government?
If you’re just looking to get a taste of the political process, like the Inspire Party Facebook page and look out for meeting dates and volunteer signups in the Spring semester. Put in a few hours canvassing, volunteering, and phone banking to see if you enjoy it. You’ll have to devote a very large portion of your free time for three weeks doing these things as a candidate or staff member, so you should, at the very least, not hate them.
If you want to run for office, you have to slate (interview to be a candidate). Interviewees shouId get résumé and, if needed, interview advice from the Career Resource Center. You’ll want to have a clear idea of why you’re running and what makes you a student leader. You can also apply for positions in the various executive branch agencies, which are appointed by the Student Body President.
Another avenue to getting involved is applying to be a party staff member. Within Inspire Party, we need people who can help with marketing, graphics, policy, logistics, and volunteer coordination. Per student election law, parties must go dormant outside of election windows, so being a staff member somewhat limits your involvement compared to holding office.