UF Progressive Caucus forms
Social and political conscience and action is coming together at the University of Florida, and most agree that the energy on campus has a different feel because of it. It's different because there's a new found organization of activism that keeps holding the mirror of critical reflection before the student body. That organization is called the UF Progressive Caucus.
The UF Progressive Caucus is exactly what its name says. In response to these times when folks tend to focus more attention on the outcome of ballgames or the lifestyles of celebrities, the caucus is a confederation of progressively tuned student organizations and individuals whose common goal is to promote social justice and political change on the UF campus and in the community. It enables these organizations to communicate ideas and to pool energy and resources for protests, demonstrations and major projects and also to help the groups remain on the same page when planning for their own events.
The UFPC emerged from a bottle of wine and a handful of thoughtful political science and zoology students who were dreaming up ways to save the world back during the fall semester of '06. Students Against War co-founder and Caucus christener Jacob Dacks said, "We started commiserating over the lack of cohesion among student activists at UF."
An epiphany struck.
"Let's establish harmony and an organization of all these commonly oriented groups we see on campus," Ben Dictor, vice president of the Political Science Honors Society remembered saying. "Jake said the name 'Progressive Caucus' and it totally made sense. The idea was somewhat inspired by the Civic Media Center which helps Gainesville activists stay networked, and also bridges the community to the Bigger picture. If we could somehow create a bond among student groups and activists through democracy, we could get a collective movement and awareness going. It's functionalism in a nutshell."
And thus the UF Progressive Caucus was set in motion.
Organizers from other groups joined forces to hammer out and draft up procedures and the Caucus' constitution. "All caucus decisions from then on, we decided, are to be made by straight up majority of single votes of each group," said Tommasina Miller of Animal Activists of Alachua. "But all groups maintain their own prerogatives and agendas. No authoritarianism here."
The next move was spreading the word, which was the easy part. "Rumors of a 'progressive caucus' started through murmurs last spring. But as soon as we came back from summer break, everyone knew about it and decided, 'yeah, this is a good idea,'" said S.A.W. member Jon Graessle. "Everybody seemed to know somebody else and we just all came to it."
The epiphany became a reality.
The constitution now has seventeen signatures, representing groups such as Campus NOW, a women's advocacy group, Animal Activists of Alachua, Presbyterian Disciples on Campus, and Students for a Democratic Society. And more are expressing interest.
The wherewithal and determination of the Caucus has so far been exemplary. UFPC has responded to the tasering of a fellow student, has formed and approved a Committee on Campus Safety to perform independent research on tasers and police-force on campus, and has been in open dialog with UF President Bernie Machen, and his ad hoc committee to review police procedures on campus. "This is very exciting and interesting to see, the Caucus being so young and already taking leaps into a world that most students would never imagine engaging; I mean, meeting with the university president to discuss serious issues," said SDS member and sitting Caucus chairperson Tina Steiger.
"I think students can really have a lasting effect on campus because of something like the Caucus. The desire for representation in the student government, engaging their political energies and finding an official voice for their concerns is important to a lot of people here who have otherwise not found an outlet," said Dictor. "We plan to see that through."
All the members agree: the time is ripe for a new course of attitude within the student community and the UF Progressive Caucus is now established for current and future students to facilitate progressive change at the University of Florida and to promote critical attention to important issues concerning all people.
If you are a member of a progressive student group, or if you are oriented towards progressive issues and want to get involved, all are heartily welcome and encouraged to join. UFPC holds meetings every first and third Mondays @ 8pm, at the Presbyterian and Disciples of Christ Student Center (where Burrito Brothers is located, right next to Target Copy) on W. University Ave. For more information, email the Caucus at , or visit the Facebook group, "UF Progressive Caucus".
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