SGA discusses possibility of political parties

By: Philippe Buteau/News Director

While Republicans figure who will face off against Democratic President Barack Obama for the White House next year, student government at the University is figuring out how political parties will operate here.

Political parties are already accounted for in SGA’s statutes because of an amendment in April 2011, but procedures on how to create party rules dictating how much they can spend and, among other things, how they will campaign, haven’t been defined yet.

So, to prevent the possibility of a political party spending $10,000 or more on a year-round campaign, the senate of the Student Government Council at Modesto Maidique Campus are in the midst of discussions on what the necessary rules will be.

The plan is to have something finalized in time for spring 2012 elections.

Jose Toscano and Michelle Castro, assistant directors of Campus Life, and Carlton Ng, graduate assistant for Campus Life gave a presentation to the senate which included ideas the senate could use, modify or reject.

“We’ve done the legwork and now the senate will fill in the gaps,” Castro said in an interview with Student Media.

The legwork was nationwide research on how political parties operate at other universities such as Auburn, Ohio State, and Florida. One of their discoveries is two possibilities under which political parties would fall – either under student government or the Council of Student Organizations. Political parties at UF fall under their version of CSO, according to Toscano.

Another consideration for the senate is whether parties will be active year-round or only during elections.

“My hopes are that parties are year-round and registered through SGA,” Toscano said in an interview with Student Media.

Toscano also said political parties would not replace the current system for elections but instead will add to what already exists in the Elections Code.

Whatever the senate passes needs the signature of SGC-MMC President Patrick O’Keefe before a statute revision can be done. If O’Keefe vetos the bill SGC-MMC Speaker of the Senate Donovan Dawson would need two-thirds vote of the senate to override his veto.

In an interview with both O’Keefe and Dawson, the two said they are opposed to political parties in the “traditional sense” – the one now being discussed.

O’Keefe is worried about political parties at the University descending into what now exists at UF. At UF, there exists a political system with alleged back-door politics that include blackmail and paying of opposition.

The slate system, what FIU currently uses, allows people to support each other but not for established political parties.

“That cannot work here,” O’Keefe said. “[You’re] only going to see people of wealth being able to [run].”

However, Dawson feels because FIU is predominantly a commuter university, in the short term life of political parties, O’Keefe’s fears, will not become reality.

Both men share similar feelings in that a person’s affiliation should not help or hurt them get elected.

“Just because people choose not to align [themselves] doesn’t mean they should be at a disadvantage,” Dawson said.

O’Keefe, his running mate Sanjeev Udhnani and Dawson were all endorsed by the Coalition of Students for Reform, a group of students whose president said they are a political party.

CSR’s President William-Jose Velez, a former senate speaker in SGC-MMC, had several concerns with points in the political party proposal.

As he looked over the proposal during an interview with Student Media Velez’ concerns concentrated on how much control there would be over political parties.

“This proposal sounds like it will micromanage parties and to me, that’s a mistake.”

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