Michael Murphy, the student body president of UF, is currently facing impeachment because of alleged coordination with President Trump’s re-election campaign in which tuition money was spent on an October campus visit from Donald Trump Jr. as a part of his book tour.
The university paid a collective $50,000 to Trump Jr. and other speakers who attended the event. The money was paid using student fees and is thus under scrutiny by the university.
If that event was coordinated in any way with President Trump’s re-election campaign, then that creates an immediate distrust from the student body.
UF student government senators have described the event as “collusion” with the campaign. UF Sen. Ben Lima echoed this sentiment in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times on its Gradebook Podcast.
“Statutes say that we cannot spend student body funds for political purposes to benefit one party over the other,” Lima said.
“They claimed … that this wasn’t a campaign event and that this wasn’t at all political but that was hard to believe considering the fact that Trump Jr. is on a book tour where he is openly advocating for the president.”
The subsequent impeachment proceedings have resulted in outrage from conservative politicians, groups in Florida and people from around the country.
Sen. Rick Scott, for example, tweeted an article on Nov. 14, about the proceedings with the caption, “This is shameful. There is a pervasive trend on college campuses to avoid being confronted with anything you disagree with.”
Scott’s comments entirely muddle the issue. The impeachment hearings have nothing to do with stifling free speech on UF’s campus. They are taking place because the UF student body president potentially violated student government statutes that bar the university from paying for partisan events.
Scott is trying to pin the blame on protesting college students, and it undermines the seriousness of the student body president’s actions.
In the process, Scott and other conservative groups are attempting to intimidate the student government through sheer partisanship.
National politicians commenting on campus matters is a reach too far. It should not be any elected politician’s job to intimidate student governments.
Jared Sellick is a senior studying political science.