Mixed reaction to new political party
This year’s student body presidential election has something elections in years past have not: a political party.
Political parties are common on university campuses, just not at USF.
For example, parties such as Swamp, Progress and Gator are just a few of the common parties found during election time at the University of Florida.
The Ethos party has been gathering support throughout USF for weeks. According to one of its founders, former Student Government Director of Community Outreach Michael Johnson, the party should make a big impact in the upcoming election.
When first called and asked point blank about the Ethos party about two weeks ago, Johnson contended that he knew nothing about it.
“I’m not really sure what you’re talking about,” Johnson said.
When reminded that the party has a Web site with Johnson listed as the contact, he became more knowledgeable.
“We do have a Web site, yeah,” Johnson said. He then said that he wouldn’t be able to talk about Ethos until later.
He said Tuesday that he answered that way because the specifics of Ethos were still unclear at that time.
There is physical proof of Ethos’ activity prior to then, however. An Ethos logo was placed alongside other sponsors on the back of 1,000 T-shirts printed by SG to be given out at the Stampede of Service ’06 service project in late January.
According to SG Director David Armstrong, the logo was not approved.
“The placement of the Ethos logo on the shirts was not approved by the student body president, (vice president) or any staff member of SG as is normally required, but was instead inserted by Michael Johnson just before the shirts were printed,” Armstrong wrote in an e-mail.
“Student Government as an entity does not support or promote any political party, organization or agenda other than the representation of the USF student body.”
Johnson, who was asked to resign after the printing of the shirts, said he believes there is no reason for him to have needed approval for putting such a logo on the shirts. He also said that as the director of community outreach, he organized SOS ’06 and it should not have been an issue.
Student body President Maxon Victor was quick to point out that while Johnson played a big role in the planning of SOS ’06, there were several others responsible for putting on the event, namely Volunteer USF.
Armstrong added in his e-mail that the rest of SG became aware of the logo that had been placed on the T-shirts when the shirts came back from the printer, and it was too late and too expensive to replace them before SOS ’06.
Victor said he was extremely angry when he saw the shirts for the first time.The shirts cost a total of $4,005.08, which came from Activity and Service fees. A&S fees come from students’ tuition.
Johnson said that Ethos did make a financial donation and thus was entitled to be on the back of the shirts.
Armstrong said he received a $25 check written in the name of Ethos from Johnson’s personal account on Thursday, more than three weeks after SOS ’06. Armstrong added that the check was received only after SG administrative services specifically requested it.
According to Victor, it was after the shirts were seen and before the SOS ’06 event took place that Johnson was asked to resign.
Johnson said he resigned from his cabinet position after the shirt incident due to what he called “creative differences” with the direction of the executive branch and SG as a whole.
“I didn’t feel comfortable working for something I didn’t believe in anymore,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, his problems with the direction and leadership of SG led to Ethos.
Ethos has bigger plans than just putting logos on shirts. Johnson wants to see the party have a large influence on USF and the surrounding community.
Johnson said he sees a political party as a way for SG to look at the long term and not change goals each year.
“With this we have the opportunity to give back to the students and have something that can be sustainable for future years,” Johnson said.
The goals for the party are fairly broad and read like most student body presidential candidates platforms each year.
Johnson listed off several things Ethos wants to do at USF. They included more support for large traditional events, a more traditional campus, an improved homecoming celebration, an improved University Lecture Series, more money for the Campus Activities Board, more student interest in CAB, more support for the Greek organizations as well as other student organizations and athletics.
According to Johnson, Ethos has slightly less than 1,000 members, which he said makes it the largest organization on campus. He also said the party plans to field candidates for positions outside of USF in the future, such as city council seats.
Ethos’ base is comprised mostly of Greek organizations but is open to any interested student.Many students, though, have expressed concerns about the forming of the party, including members of fraternities and sororities. They have asked not to be named because of what they consider the growing influence of Ethos.
They expressed concerns that the party will divide students rather than unite them. Victor echoed their concerns.
“I don’t feel that Ethos is the answer to improving student life or what goes on here at USF,” he said. “I believe that Ethos is going to promote division.”
Johnson said the party is not meant to be harmful.
“This is nothing but a good thing. We have positive goals,” Johnson said.
The party has chosen to support the student body presidential ticket of Kyle Myers and his running mate Aadil Modi. Johnson said that both Myers and Modi were part of the original planning that led to the creation of Ethos, but added that he wouldn’t necessarily call them “founders.”
Johnson ran unsuccessfully for student body president last year with Myers as his running mate.
According to Johnson, 20 of the candidates running for SG senate have ties to Ethos.