Letter to the Editor: “SGA should be an entity that powers public expression”

disabledStudent Senate Chambers | Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW

Kaily LaChapelle | Senate President of Student Government Association, President of Pride Student Union, and Co-Founder/Vice-President of Disabled Student Union

Hello Panthers! I have been a part of SGA since July 2021, passionate about leaving a lasting impact on our campus for the representation of marginalized students. 

To see our academic freedom and civil liberties stripped from us has been devastating. It all started with HB 1557 and HB 7, otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” and “Stop WOKE” bills, were passed by the Republican super-majority and signed into law by Florida Governor Ron Desantis in 2022.

In Spring 2023, laws such as SB 266 (Defund Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within Higher Education), SB 1718 (Anti-Immigration), SB 1580 (Legalizing Discrimination within Healthcare Workers), and SB 252 (Restrictions on Gender Affirming Care), HB 1521 (Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bill) were all passed in Florida.

Hundreds of students came together on our campus to coalition build, host protests, and lobby in Tallahassee. I wrote and passed the “Can’t Ban Us” Resolution (S.R. 03 014) in SGA, where dozens of students and organizations packed our Senate chambers to denounce HB 7, fight against SB 266, and protect our DEI organizations, programs, and curriculums. 

For those unaware, SGA is a very powerful organization on campus with much visibility. SGA controls a 19.6 million dollar budget and our Student Body President has voting power on the Board of Trustees, which is designated under the Florida Executive Branch.

For anyone thinking politics needs to stay out of SGA, that simply does not make sense. Politics affects all of us, and our role as SGA on this campus is to represent student voices.

You are turning a blind-eye to the suffering and injustice happening to Palestinians in Gaza and to the Palestinian students at FIU; where students speaking out, including myself, have faced political repression and have been subject to death threats, intimidation and retaliation. 

Already filed in the Florida Legislature for 2024 is SB 470 (Restricting Financial Aid and In-State Tuition for Pro-Palestine Students). Resolutions like “Ceasefire NOW” are doing the job I promised to do as Senate President of SGA, “to defend academic freedom by standing up to Desantis.”

Students have more power than they realize and SGA should be an entity that power’s public expression. It should not be radical to want to have a say in the politics that affect your life – it is time to wake up to our depoliticized and apathetic society to defend our democracy at every level.

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board, nor does the Board necessarily endorse the content of letters to the editor. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of members of the university community and beyond. All letters to the editor are published with respect to PantherNOW’s role as a public forum for free expression at FIU.

Want to write a letter to the editor? You can respond to this letter or write your own. Email fiusmeditor@gmail.com with a piece no longer than 400 words. Text is edited for length, not for grammar, spelling or clarity. Letters may not include promotion, calls to action or hate speech. Students must send their full name, year and major and Panther I.D. Faculty must send their full name, department and postion at the university. Writers outside the FIU community must send their full name and photo I.D.

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