Tue 21 Feb 2006
Walking home from campus late Thursday night, I noticed a woman sleeping in the bus shelter in front of Tigert Hall.
A few hours later, less than 100 yards away, university provosts and vice presidents and their secretaries would be inside, tending to the concerns of one of America’s largest universities.
I don’t have any major insight into the issues of homelessness and poverty. I just know that people are people, and deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, whatever their station in life.
Neither do I have the solution to those issues. Even if I did — if I knew the magic bullet to eliminate poverty — I’m not sure Student Government would be the best forum to address that. But I know we need to be talking about it. SG controls a lot of resources, not the least of which are funding for student organizations and events, and the “bully pulpit” of media attention.
Homelessness is not a problem that disappears when we walk into a classroom; neither will it vanish on the day of commencement. But in this situation where real people are suffering every day, SG is doing little if anything to focus on the problem.
The Unite Party platform includes a promise to “proactively address poverty”. A bit strange for a Student Government party, eh? But there’s a lot we can do.
SG can help coordinate service organizations and focus projects. SG can build partnerships with local government, community organizations, and businesses. SG leaders can set an example for the student body by publicly speaking about and participating in efforts to alleviate poverty and homeless. By appointing officials based on merit rather than backroom promises for election support, SG can operate more effectively and exert a greater impact. SG can improve publicity efforts to increase participation on campus and in the community. And, as laid out in our platform promises about fiscal responsibility, SG can reign in its own budget to ensure more programming for students: more funding for speakers, films, and activities to engage students in the world around them.
A major part of education and the university experience is learning not just from classes and textbooks, but from organizations and activities; learning not just about chemistry and psychology, but social and political issues in the world around us. I’m running with Unite because we don’t want to settle for the status quo. We want to push the envelope and move things forward. We want to set the standard; we want to lead.
I believe people have a moral responsibility to help others in need. It’s just one aspect of personal and social responsibility overall. Students at UF are part of larger communities, from the local community, to cultural and religious communities and the global community. SG should partner with others to provide more programs to ensure that UF graduates are equipped to meet their responsibilities. And if I’m elected, I will.