When Matthew Smallbach, a junior majoring in accounting, heard what the voter turnout of the last Student Government (SG) elections was, he said he felt there was too much apathy on campus. Though usually associated with division, Smallbach thought creating a political party would unite the student body.
“I had this idea and I felt that this was the right time to do it,” he said. “Voter turnout is really bad here. We’re averaging 2 to 4 percent voter turnout when UF, with six political parties, is averaging 15 to 18 percent. We really don’t know the agenda ideas of the candidates running – there’s nothing to hold them to.”
The Green and Gold Party (GGP), a student organization of 120 current members that Smallbach presides over, is not the first political party attempted at USF – the last party was created and disbanded in 2005 – but Smallbach hopes it will be the longest lasting. The party was formed in June with co-founder Michael Miglio, a sophomore majoring in English, and meets with students across campus to discuss ideas that will become the party’s platform.
“We’re meeting with a lot of people trying to unite students on a common goal,” Smallbach said. “We’re talking to people in SG, people that have problems with SG, people that like SG. We want everybody’s opinion.”
Though neither founding members are currently involved with SG, Smallbach and Miglio hope to have party candidates run in fall Senate elections and are currently working with SG to create senatorial debates to promote more transparency in SG. The two said they hope to host “university hall” meetings, in the style of town hall meetings, for students to discuss issues that will form the party’s platform.
Currently, Smallbach said the party’s platform seeks a better curriculum, expanded library and printing services, lower tuition, and better parking solutions – agendas that are often difficult to see realized in times of budget crunches.
Miglio said the party hopes to create a united voice that will allow students to lobby for changes at the SG, University and state level.
“We need people to understand that the way things are now can definitely be improved,” he said. “We need them to know they can make those improvements. (Now) you don’t have to put a platform out there or vouch for something, because it takes away from your voters. With a political party, you’re going to have to have a platform and you’re going to have to be the best to win. That’s going to change things.”
Smallbach said he hopes to see more political parties emerge on campus, though not in opposition to the GGP, which will strive to be the uniting voice of USF students.
“These kind of stands we’re taking are hard to disagree with because we’re composed of students,” he said.
Miglio said the party should not be gauged on a national political spectrum.
“We don’t want people trying to figure out whether this is a right or left party,” he said. “It’s both or it’s neither. It’s a what’s-best-for-the-students party … We want students to have passion and be involved with who heads our university because they’re going to be the face of it.”
More information can be found at the party’s Facebook page: “Green and Gold Party USF.”