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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023
VOLUME 118 - ISSUE 14 Not officially associated with the University of Florida
Published by Campus Communications, Inc. of Gainesville, Florida
UF pro-Palestinian organization likely to win lawsuit against shutdown order, legal experts say
The group filed a lawsuit against UF, Gov. Ron DeSantis Nov. 16 By Garrett Shanley Alligator Staff Writer
A UF pro-Palestinian student group could see a future victory in a courtroom against top Florida education officials after it cited First Amendment rights against a statewide order calling for the deactivation of its group. The UF Students for Justice in Palestine filed a lawsuit Nov. 16 against Gov. Ron DeSantis, UF President Ben Sasse, the Florida Board of Governors and the UF Board of Trustees for their efforts to ban the group from campus — and some legal experts believe the lawsuit could result in a win for the student group. Gary Edinger, a Gainesville lawyer who threatened to sue UF in 2017 if it barred farright white nationalist Richard Spencer from speaking on campus, said plaintiffs have a “brilliant lawsuit.” Immediate government action against public speech is “super rare,” he said. “And the reason it’s super rare is because it's super unconstitutional.” UF SJP filed the lawsuit with support from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and another civil rights group Palestine Legal. The lawsuit seeks to block the order and declare it as unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The lawsuit targets State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues’ Oct. 24 memo ordering universities to disband
Football Story description finish with comma,
Gators fall to Mizzou in late-game pg# heartbreaker. Read more on pg. 11.
chapters of National Students for Justice in Palestine, claiming the organization supported “Hamas terrorism.” Rodrigues walked back the order at the Board of Governors meeting Nov. 9, citing legal concerns that university actors could be held personally liable for shutting down the groups. He added the administration is now working with universities to obtain “an express affirmation from their campus chapters affirming a rejection of violence, renunciation of Hamas, and commitment to upholding the law.” Hina Shamsi, director of ACLU’s National Security Project, wrote in an email Nov. 18 that Rodrigues’ new order still violates the First Amendment. “The ultimatum would in addition force the student group to proclaim its innocence of things it has not done or said, which is compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment,” Shamsi wrote. “And one of the lessons of the McCarthy era is that government leaders go down a dangerous and divisive path when they make demands like this.” UF law professor Jane Bambauer said “the state is overreacting” by issuing a deactivation order. “They are trying to penalize this student organization for making a political message that is disfavored by the state, and that is not allowed under free
SEE ACLU, PAGE 4
Evelyn Miguel // Alligator Staff
Around 60 protestors gather on the corner of University Avenue and 13th Street in support of Palestine on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.
UF graduate student locked in legal battle over Spruce Creek
A controversial highway interchange is approved to be built over key wetlands, petitioners say By Kylie Williams Alligator Staff Writer
Derek LaMontagne spent his midterm season in a courtroom. The 38-year-old UF graduate chemistry student, along with other petitioners, brought a case against the construction of the Pioneer Trail Highway Interchange off I-95 in Volusia County. LaMontagne filed the case with Bryon White, Bear Warriors United and The Sweetwater Coalition of Volusia County April 18. The case was filed against the Florida De-
partment of Transportation and the St. Johns River Water Management District, with the primary concern the interchange will cause excess environmental harm. “The ecosystem is at a point of failure,” LaMontagne said. “It will basically be a catastrophe for all of the Spruce Creek watershed.” LaMontagne is a member of Save Don’t Pave Spruce Creek, an organization with the goal of protecting the Spruce Creek watershed. The Pioneer Trail Interchange will demolish over 60 acres of wetlands within the Spruce Creek area,
High Springs restaurant owner faces another lawsuit, pg. 3
which LaMontagne said would be disastrous for the watershed. Vital habitat for species like black bears, manatees and gopher tortoises would be destroyed. Spruce Creek would no longer serve as a wildlife corridor, further separating habitats in Volusia County. Spruce Creek is designated as an outstanding Florida waterbody, making it vital to Florida’s environment. Outstanding Florida water bodies are protected under state law, LaMontagne said, making the ap-
SEE SPRUCE CREEK, PAGE 4
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El Caimán: Friendship Families
Program connects international students with local families, pg. 6
2 ALLIGATOR MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023
UF Faculty SenateWeather resolves shared Today’s governance proposal, discusses construction of unisex bathrooms
The shared governance resolution was passed unanimously By Bailey Diem Alligator Staff Writer
The UF Faculty Senate discussed recent bathroom legislation, resolved the shared governance proposal and proposed the closure of several degree programs Nov. 16. The shared governance resolution was originally proposed Oct. 19. It promotes the collaboration of university faculty, staff and students in decision and policy-making at UF. UF Faculty Senate Chair Danaya Wright said Nov. 16 the resolution “has three pieces to it.” “One is that the Senate Chair will task the faculty councils to review shared governance,” she said. “Second, that President Sasse will also direct the deans and directors to work with their faculty in doing a reassessment of shared governance, and that the Board of Trustees will reaffirm the importance of shared governance.” The resolution was voted on and passed unanimously with no discussion. Angela Lindner, associate provost for undergraduate affairs, proposed terminating the bachelor of science in horticultural science from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The horticultural science and plant science programs merged during the Summer 2023 semester, and the proposed closure wouldn’t cause the removal of any horticulture courses, she said. “Students can graduate from the revised plant science major meeting the same student learning outcomes of the current horticultural science major,” Lindner said. “The collaborative merge is anticipated to increase the number of plant science majors while also increasing the number of students who enroll in horticulture courses.” No faculty would be removed from the horticultural sciences department, nor would horticulture students get off track due to the termination, she said. “Students currently enrolled in the horticultural science major will be given the choice,” Lindner said. “They can continue in the major with their degrees in horticulture science or they can jump over to this new plant science major.” Two master’s degree programs
from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were also proposed for closure at the meeting. Tom Kelleher, graduate school associate dean for academic affairs, submitted the proposal for removing the Masters of Arts programs with majors in religion and classical studies because of low enrollment, he said. The religion major’s master’s program saw minimal enrollment, he said. “In this particular program, there are actually no students so they have recommended both a termination term and a phase-out term of Spring 2024,” Kelleher said. Faculty members also discussed unisex bathrooms in the wake of a new state regulation regarding bathroom use. David Kratzer, senior vice president for construction, facilities and auxiliary operations, introduced multiple construction plans for the campus. His list included the recently constructed Malachowsky Hall, the completion of the Honors Village and the addition of more unisex bathrooms on campus. While a map of unisex bathrooms at UF can be found on the online campus map, they aren’t always accessible or available, Kratzer said. “There is no doubt we need additional unisex and ADA-compliant bathroom space on this campus,” he said. However, due to the large number of old buildings with outdated facilities or a lack of unisex bathrooms, their construction may be a never-ending process, he said. “I’ve come to the conclusion that bathrooms are kind of like parking,” he said. “I don’t know that we’re ever going to have enough. But we’re gonna try.” Jamie Garner, a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences senator, said the new regulations could increase discrimination toward LGBTQ+ students and faculty and create a harmful campus environment. “These policies are dangerous and have the very real possibility of doing significant harm to the transgender students and faculty already here,” she said at the meeting. “It can force us to leave and to deter future transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming students and
VOLUME 118 - ISSUE 14
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faculty from coming to the university.” UF President Ben Sasse made an appearance toward the end of the meeting to deliver a brief report. The university had reached an agreement with the faculty union, and will see salary increases, Sasse said. “The merit salary increase will be 3.2% for 2023-2024, which is almost exactly in line with our nonunion folks,” he said. “The specific merit increase awarded to each faculty member will be from a merit pool that will be determined in accordance with established qualifying criteria at the unit level.” Sasse also delivered an update regarding the strategic funding initiative. UF receives a large amount of public funding and, through a new round of strategic funding, it is being targeted at “advancing student experience” and “trying to drive more interdisciplinary research across the university,” he said. He finished by emphasizing his vision for diversifying core curriculum requirements, which he has previously vouched for, and creating a “common experience” for all UF students. “When we talk about the core, we should be talking about a shared experience,” he said. “We ought to come to a subject asking … ‘What small number of classes, questions and topics do we think all Gators actually have in common?’”
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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023 ALLIGATOR 3
High Springs restaurant owner faces another lawsuit GAINESVILLE RESIDENTS SUE FOR OVER HALF A MILLION DOLLARS
By Bea Lunardini Alligator Staff Writer
Another lawsuit was filed against a High Springs restaurant owner, who’s being sued for defaulting on mortgages of the Pink Flamingo Diner and Great Outdoors restaurants, Nov. 7. This suit is also a complaint for foreclosure, naming Dae Jung Kim and his company Healthy Cosmo, Inc. as defendants. The mortgagees, Gainesville residents Dean and Virginia Nappy, are suing Kim and Cosmo for over $500,000. The contract was signed March 29, 2021, establishing a 35-month repayment schedule for the $500,000 principal sum. The payments of over $3,000 were due on the first of each month beginning in May 2021, although the foreclosure complaint states Kim never made a payment when it was due. The suit also seeks around $20,000 for ad valorem taxes, which are taxes imposed on a property based on its assessed value. The complaint states these taxes were not paid by Kim or his company when they were due in October, forcing the Nappys to pay them instead. In total, the Nappy foreclosure complaint sues Kim and Healthy Cosmo, Inc., for nearly $520,000 in addition to attorney fees. He has
Gracie Kurtz // Alligator Staff
Servers work behind the counter at the Pink Flamingo Diner on Sunday Oct. 1, 2023.
not filed a response with the Alachua County Clerk of Court as of Nov. 19, and his summons requires him to do so before Nov. 27. This is the latest foreclosure suit filed against Kim and one of his companies, following the suits filed in September, which sought over $2 million and reclamation of both the Pink Flamingo Diner and Great Outdoors restaurants in High Springs. In the earlier suits, Kim referenced a friend named Roger Ludwig who had been consulting on some of his business matters. Ludwig has also been involved in recent legal issues, with a warrant out for his arrest for violation of probation conditions. Ludwig was placed under a 60-month su-
pervision sentence June 13 after being found guilty on two charges of grand theft between $20,000 and $100,000 and two charges of contract fraud. He violated three conditions of his probation, according to a report filed with the Department of Corrections on Nov. 1. On Sept. 19, Ludwig moved out of his home in High Springs and left Alachua County without notifying his probation officer, William Stephens, and he failed to report to the probation office on Oct. 31 to check in. “He called me Oct. 31 and told me he was in Germany,” Stephens said. “He’s not even supposed to leave the county without telling me, never mind the country.” On Nov. 2, a warrant for his arrest was issued by officer Jacob McKnight. “Ludwig has not only violated his probation on three separate counts,” McKnight said, “but he has also skipped his mandatory drug test and hasn’t paid his court fees. After he explains himself in front of the court, he’ll have an ankle monitor put on him because he’s proven to be a flight risk.” The charges against Ludwig come from his role as the officer of All American Custom Commercial and Homes LLC, a construction company. All American was established in December 2018, shortly after Category 5 hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida in October. Ludwig entered into two contracts after the hurricane, despite not being a licensed
contractor in Florida and therefore unauthorized to perform repairs. The first of the two contracts was signed with Linda Jacks, a Bay County homeowner, to replace her roof and remodel the inside of her home due to storm damage. Her insurance company issued a $40,000 check to Ludwig to begin construction in May 2019, which he cashed, but the work on her home was never begun, according to Jacks’ police report. She reported this in April 2020, and he was found to be in violation of the contract in March 2021. “I gave him the checks that he said he needed to get started,” Jacks said, “and then he just disappeared. He never hammered even a single nail on my house.” The second contract was signed March 16, 2019, with an unnamed Bay County homeowner, referred to in the probable cause affidavit as “the victim.” She also hired Ludwig to restore her home after Hurricane Michael, providing him with checks totaling nearly $40,000, but he did not perform any repairs. Ludwig was released from the contract in July 2019 after no work was completed on the house and refused to return the victim’s checks. The affidavit states that he deposited the checks into an account under his name. Neither Ludwig nor Kim responded to requests for comment. @bealunardini firstname.lastname@example.org
Gainesville mayor sends letter to Biden administration advocating for cease-fire in Gaza JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE MEMBERS ATTENDED THE CITY COMMISSION MEETING URGING FOR A CEASE-FIRE RESOLUTION IN GAZA
By Kat Tran Alligator Staff Writer
With only three minutes for each public comment, 16 Gainesville community members, including those a part of the Jewish Voice for Peace organization, urged city commissioners to adopt a resolution in support of an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. Although the City Commission did not pass a resolution as JVP members urged, Mayor Harvey Ward said an alternative would be a written letter to federal government officials since resolutions are not traditionally added at the last minute. “This is about human life. This is about peace. I don’t have a problem with sending a letter saying please stop shooting each other,” Ward said. After listening to many personal stories, experiences, scenarios and anecdotes of Jewish individuals and local residents, Ward motioned to vote whether he should send a letter to the Biden administration. All of the city commissioners in attendance voted in favor. Commissioners Desmon DuncanWalker and Cynthia Chestnut were absent. Jewish Voice for Peace is the largest progressive Jewish, antiZionist organization in the world,
according to its website. The organization made an Instagram post Nov. 15 calling for community members to sign up for general public comment, which opened at 1 p.m. “One of the things that separates this conflict from others is the way that we’re watching it unfold,” Chris Arias, a Gainesville resident, said while speaking to commissioners. He said Israel has cut off fuel, electricity, food and water from Gaza and are raiding the West Bank. “When everyone in the world is seeing these things, including your constituents, it is imperative that we make it very clear that Gainesville condemns this and that we want a cease-fire,” Arias said. Avila Asher, a Jewish mother, farmer and local small business owner, was raised in a large Jewish community in Philadelphia. She said her experiences growing up with an extensive Jewish family history reverberate with the echoes of collective generational trauma. “I feared I could be forced into ghettos by a sophisticated military power aiming for our annihilation while others stood by or even cheered,” Asher said. “These were my fears even in the comfortable Philadelphia neighborhood in which I was raised.” She said this conflict is challenging to understand when Western media has been decontextualizing information while dehumanizing Palestinians. “It is particularly confus-
Shannon Ahern // Alligator Staff
ing for many to weigh in when Jewish identity has been instrumentalized to further Western hegemonic agenda in the Middle East,” Asher said. “And by design any critical questioning of Israel’s actions is met with allegations of anti-Semtism.” Commissioner Bryan Eastman said he has been following events from the ground level, citing the photos and stories from the initial Hamas attack and then from bombings and raids in Palestine. He believes in many ways, the world has been stepping backward, he said. “I don’t know how Gainesville can be helpful in any of this, but if we can be in any way I think it’s important,” he said. In response to Eastman, Com-
missioner Ed Book said what the City Commission does as local elected officials and the way people treat each other locally is how Gainesville can make a difference globally. Having a good protocol that doesn’t allow discrimination and mistreatment of others on the basis of different backgrounds, ethnicities, race, gender or orientation is where the City Commission can set its stance, Book said. Commissioner Casey Willitis said UF hosts the largest concentration of Jewish students in the U.S. at any university, that isn’t a Jewish-specific university. He referenced Gainesville’s sister cities in Qalqilya, Palestine, in the West Bank and Kfar Saba, Israel, right across the border.
“Most of the violence we have seen, both the massacre and military response, was not in the West Bank, but it seems like our sister communities could have been in the crosshairs of this violence,” Willitis said. He also said ending military action is the best thing for Israelis, regarding the U.S.’s abstinence in the U.N. Security Council’s Nov. 15 resolution for extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout Gaza. “Clearly what happened on Oct. 7 was horrendous, a massacre, immoral and probably against every single person’s value system,” Willits said. Commissioner Reina Saco said she admits she has been hesitant to speak on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because she was put on a watchlist called “Canary Mission,” nine years ago. Saco was a member of Students for Justice in Palestine and had publicly spoken against the last bombing of Gaza, she said. She had said children should not be bombed, and that landed her a spot on the watch list for being antisemitic, Saco said. Ward said the cease-fire resolution letter to the Biden administration, Congress and the Senate was set to be sent Nov. 17. “I am mindful that there are wars around the world and human life in Sudan, Ukraine, Palestine, Israel or here in Gainesville,” Ward said. “They all have value.” @kat3tran email@example.com
4 ALLIGATOR MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023
UF Lawsuit ACLU, from pg. 1
speech,” Bambauer said. Former UF law faculty member Clay Calvert said the order will likely be blocked. Courts tend to protect free speech when First Amendment rights are threatened, Calvert said. Representatives of DeSantis and the Board of Governors did not respond to The Alligator’s emails asking for comment. UF spokesperson Steve Orlando confirmed in an email Nov. 17 that the university has not deactivated any groups since the order was issued. “The University of Florida has been clear and upfront about our two foundational and legal commitments: We will protect our students and we will protect speech,” Orlando wrote. “Any student groups that break the law will be decertified. All UF student organizations that were in place before the Board of Governors’ memo are still in place now.” Gabriella Aulisio // Alligator Staff
Clay Calvert, former director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at UF, gives a speech about the legality of academic freedom at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Tuesday, March 28, 2023.
UF graduate student locked in legal battle over highway interchange development of ICI Homes SPRUCE CREEK, from pg. 1 housing near the Pioneer Trail interchange, proved interchange and subsequent wetland destruction illegal. However, LaMontagne had to fight much of the legal battle against FDOT without an attorney. LaMontagne began representing himself and the other petitioners on Aug. 1, after their joint legal counsel withdrew due to “irreconcilable differences.” The hearing concluded Oct. 27, with a decision from the judge expected to come in January. LaMontagne has no legal training, whereas the opposition had an expensive team of lawyers, he said. However, LaMontagne felt the petition was important enough to pursue, even if he had to defend it himself. After growing up in the Spruce Creek area, LaMontagne said he’s been a firsthand witness to the impacts of overdevelopment. “This is especially egregious because they are [developing] without this underlying layer of protection,” he added. Lewis, Longman & Walker, the firm representing FDOT and the St. Johns River Water Management District, declined to comment on the case. This isn’t the first time LaMontagne has battled with the firm. The Pioneer Trail interchange is the fourth time LaMontagne has filed environmental petitions in court. Each time, Lewis, Longman & Walker defended the respondents. LaMontagne filed a petition in 2017 alongside the Friends of Spruce Creek Preserve against the St. Johns River Water Management District and Woodhaven LLC. The petition alleged that Woodhaven, a
didn’t meet proper environmental permitting requirements. The CEO of ICI Homes, Mori Hosseini, also holds the role of chairman for the UF board of trustees. Bryon White, another petitioner in the Pioneer Trail case, alleged the interchange is being built as a political favor from Gov. Ron DeSantis to Hosseini, his longtime supporter. Hosseini donated $1 million to DeSantis’ presidential campaign, and has also provided gifts such as a golf simulator and private flights. Hosseini, who was unable to be reached for comment, has spoken publicly in favor of the Pioneer Trail interchange. “There’s no such thing as coincidence in this sort of deal,” White said. The interchange is estimated to cost a total of $120 million, with the majority coming from leftover COVID-19 relief funds. DeSantis directed $92 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to be used for the interchange, a decision that White said doesn’t reflect the interests of local residents. “What is happening to Spruce Creek is not unusual or rare in the state,” White said. “But this one hurts and it hits close to home.” In 2022, Volusia County Council Chairman Jeff Brower sent a letter to DeSantis and members of FDOT in opposition to the interchange. Brower argued in his letter that the interchange misused taxpayer funds caused environmental harm and was opposed by the majority of Volusia citizens. Brower never officially heard back from the governor or other re-
cipients of his letter, he said. Most of the residents he’s spoken to are adamantly opposed to the interchange, Brower said. Volusia County is already experiencing severe flooding and water pollution issues, he added, which will only be worsened by an increase in development. Residents on both sides of the political spectrum are concerned about the future of Spruce Creek. “There’s money available to buy land there and protect it,” Brower added. “But instead we’re spending to do an interstate exchange where it’s not needed.” Citizens submitted public comments to the River To Sea Transportation Planning Organization at
the beginning of 2023 regarding the interchange. Nearly all comments were opposed to the interchange and cited everything from health concerns to traffic congestion and environmental degradation. “Please do not ruin this beautiful area with traffic,” one resident said. “This is critical wild land that should be protected at all costs. Once it is bulldozed, filled in, devoured by developers, it is gone forever. And then where do the animals go?” another commented. Lori Sandman, a resident of Volusia County, said she’s concerned with how the interchange will impact the Spruce Creek area during major hurricanes. Without
Spruce Creek Peaceful Water pictured above.
wetlands there to absorb stormwater runoff or storm surge, residential areas could see major flooding effects. Sandman also worries property values near the interchange will fall and insurance costs will rise as flooding becomes more serious. This may cause some longtime Volusia County residents to move out of the area, she added. “We don’t oppose development,” Sandman added. “We oppose developing wetlands without consideration of where the water can be directed.” @kyliewilliams99 firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy to The Alligator
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023 ALLIGATOR 5
COVID-19 led to ongoing speech delays, attention struggles in elementary schools LACK OF SOCIALIZATION IMPACTED CHILDREN BORN DURING LOCKDOWN
By Ella Thompson Alligator Staff Writer
When it was finally safe to return to grocery stores after the COVID-19 lockdown, Laura Holmes took her 5-year-old twins to Publix. Sitting side by side in their race-car cart, the twins ducked at the sound of the store’s public address system. Curiously, they stared at other customers walking by, and Holmes realized her children — born in 2018 — had missed many of their formative moments because of the pandemic. Her twins didn’t understand the concept of a PA system and elevators. They are still battling with the idea of escalators. But more importantly, Holmes said they also missed out on developmental school years. Holmes has witnessed firsthand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, both as a Gainesville mother of three and as a pediatric occupational therapist at Fundamental Therapy Solutions. About 61% of kindergarten through 12th-grade parents in the United States said the first year of the coronavirus pandemic had a negative impact on their child’s education, according to a Pew Research Center study. “My kindergarteners, now, are not at the same place academically that my oldest son was despite doing everything kind of the same,” Holmes said. “He was writing pretty proficiently when he was in kindergarten and my twins, their letters are not great.” Her eldest son was a strong reader in kindergarten, while her twins are “emerging readers,” as Holmes described them. They can read short words and basic sight words, the words schools expect students to recognize immediately. Her eighth-grader attended day care as a child, which is the only difference between her eighth grader and twins’ upbringings, Holmes said. Of that 61% of parents in the Pew study, 56% said the impact was temporary — Holmes agrees. Her eighthgrader struggled with focus when schools went virtual, but he is showing strong studying and test-taking skills, she said. “That was very hard for him to stay motivated — keep
his camera on, follow the material that was there, and listen to the conversations just sitting in his chair, for hours and hours a day,” she said. From a professional point, Holmes has seen an influx of referrals for occupational therapy. She works with children to develop their sensory and social skills, she said. There’s also been an increase in aggressive behavior. Tantrums are more common in 5-year-olds than they used to be, but the reason why is still slightly unknown, Holmes said. At home, a child’s environment can be very comfortable, and without the experiences of grocery shopping, day care or other worldly exposures, it can be hard to process situations they’ve never experienced. “We’re seeing even more kiddos coming in with concerns for social skills and a lot of concerns about aggression and aggressive behaviors, and I think that’s difficulty with coping skills that we’re really seeing,” she said. Frank Mackritis, St. Patrick Interparish School principal, notes a decrease in social skills, too. Conflict resolution has become an issue, and he’s dedicated time toward getting students to agree to disagree, he said. “When I’m talking about fine motor skills, I’m also talking about communication skills, the ability to sit and have a conversation with somebody, the ability to do an interview, the ability to look somebody in the eye when you’re talking to them — those skills deteriorated even further during the time of COVID,” he said. “And it’s something that we try to work on as a school.” In addition to decreased conversational skills, he’s observed attention and comprehension struggles, he said. “We found out, during COVID, some very valuable lessons,” he said. “One is you can’t put a child in front of a computer for six hours. It’s ineffective.” There are two groups of students in his school: prepandemic students and post-pandemic students. Students born before or during the pandemic — now in kindergarten, first and second grade — are staying on track with school, do not have any unordinary focus issues and have strong conversation skills. Students now in the third, fourth and fifth grade, who spent a year learning from home, are struggling to read, converse and are testing nearly an entire year behind their grade level, Mackritis said. “The whole idea of ‘let’s learn online’ sounded good,
but it was probably the most ineffective year that we’ve ever had as a nation, as far as educating our children,” he said. “Brick and mortar is the way to go.” Students lost nearly a year of reading and math comprehension to the pandemic, according to Education Week. Average math scores fell 0.20-0.27 standard deviations and reading scores fell 0.09-0.18 standard deviations lower compared to 2019 tests scores, Brookings reports. The pandemic also caused an increase of speech therapy referrals, said Amy Tomlinson, a certified speech language pathologist. Fundamental Therapy Solutions, the private clinic Tomlinson owns in Gainesville, offers a wide range of services around occupational and speech therapy, among other types of therapy services. Speech language pathologists tackle more than basic communication skills — they help develop articulation, expressive receptive language delays, feeding habits, reading, dyslexia and stuttering. Young children missed the visual cues that go into speech development during the pandemic, Tomlinson said. “Developmentally, babies and toddlers learn a lot from just watching your mouth, feeling your mouth, and they didn’t have that or they had a lot less of that,” she said. Children are making progress in their development, Tomlinson said. She noted it’s harder to catch up rather than develop at a normal pace, and she’s seeing patients that are delayed years because of those missed early milestones. The number of patients at Fundamental Therapy Solutions has skyrocketed and group services are getting bigger, she said, but it’s become harder to get access to services as more and more people get waitlisted at clinics. The caseloads Tomlinson takes on at schools in Alachua County have also increased. “I know that it’s increased,” Tomlinson said. “I can feel it because I’m in the trenches. I know that the delays are real. The lack of socialization was detrimental.” @elladeethompson email@example.com
A Costco desert: Gainesville residents pine for Kirkland Signature OF THE 50 MOST POPULATED CITIES IN FLORIDA, GAINESVILLE IS FARTHEST FROM NEAREST WAREHOUSE
By Zoey Thomas Alligator Staff Writer
At Butler Plaza, a mix of grocery-store chains — Sam’s Club, Whole Foods, Publix, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Aldi — compete for Gainesville shoppers’ attention, all within a one-third mile radius. But one store is noticeably missing, not just from the plaza, but from the city entirely. Costco Wholesale, beloved big-box warehouse chain and world’s largest organic food retailer, has 31 Florida locations. But Gainesville residents must drive two hours north to Jacksonville or two hours south to Orlando if they want to stock up on industrial-sized bags of coffee beans, browse free samples or feast on $1.50 hot dogs from the food court. Costco’s absence isn’t for lack of effort on the city’s part. Butler Enterprises approached the retail chain about opening a Gainesville location in 2016, when it opened an expansion north of Archer Road into Clark Butler Blvd. the offer was rejected. Costco advised Butler that Gainesville was not the store’s market, Butler Enterprises wrote in an email to The Alligator. Having a Costco would encourage the Gainesville community to eat healthy for less money, Mary Monahan, a 61-year-old retiree said — especially if a location opened near downtown Gainesville, where there are fewer healthy grocery options. Monahan has lived in Gainesville since
2008. She and her husband have had a membership for over 30 years, despite being two hours from the nearest warehouse in all four cardinal directions, she said. “My husband has an ongoing joke that apparently the people deciding expansions at Costco went to FSU,” she said. Monahan stops by a warehouse whenever she visits friends in other Florida cities, she said. Although she only makes the trip about five times per year, the membership is still worth her money, she said. Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand carries products she can’t find proxies for elsewhere — like her husband’s preferred coffee or her favorite dried fruit mixes, she said. Though she caved and joined Sam’s Club two years ago, she would cancel her membership immediately if Costco came to Gainesville, she said. “At Costco, you can get dried apricots, dried cherries, dried blueberries,” she said. “At Sam’s, you can get Craisins and Craisins. It’s just very much more processed foods and packaged foods.” With membership fees at $60 per year compared to Walmart-owned competitor Sam’s Club’s $45, Costco has a reputation for attracting higher-income customers. The typical Costco customer visits the store every other week to spend about $100 per visit, according to a February report from Business Insider. Costco stores’ target customers are evident in the chain’s chosen locations. Median household income among the 31 cities in Florida with Costcos is $69,592. That’s almost $8,000 more than the statewide median — and over $20,000 higher than the Gainesville median. Gainesville’s poverty rate of 28.5% also lies
above Florida Costco-positive cities’ average of 12.3%. “I think that the economics of Gainesville does present a bit of a challenge for Costco,” said Joel Davis, UF Warrington College of Business clinical professor and David F. Miller Retail Center executive director. When a store looks to open a location in a new city, it must consider both profit and costs, Davis said. For Costco, the profit side can be split into two components. On the business-retail side of profit, Costco sells to restaurants and businesses that then resell its products. About 11.8 million businesses held Costco memberships in 2023, according to Business Insider. From a consumer-retail standpoint, Costco focuses on how to sell to its other customer base — individuals and families. It uses member data from home addresses to shopping receipts to figure out what type of customers will spend the most money at its stores, Davis said. On the cost side, businesses have to get the right piece of property in the right place at the right price, he said. Finding the right location, with favorable terms that will allow it to remain profitable, could be the snag keeping Costco from opening in Gainesville — rather than concerns about customer demographics, he said. “I would be very surprised if Costco was not interested in moving to Gainesville,” he said. “Gainesville is not a major metropolis and it’s not a major city, and so it doesn’t automatically qualify in the top destination, but I do think the economics here would support one.” At just over 50 miles from the nearest warehouse, Gainesville is farther from Costco
than any other city among Florida’s top 50 most-populated cities. Among the top 100, Gainesville is second only to Pensacola, whose nearest store is in Mobile. Though Gainesville’s 75,000-student university population doesn’t appear the ideal candidate for bulk grocery shopping — a habit more typically associated with large families — students with Sam’s Club subscriptions hint at youth interest in warehouse shopping. Tanya Ramos, a 19-year-old UF psychology sophomore from the Orlando area, grew up going to both Sam’s Club and Costco with her parents. When she moved to Gainesville, her parents bought her a Sam’s Club membership for access to bulk groceries at low prices, she said. As a social committee chair for her honors fraternity Phi Sigma Pi, Ramos visits Sam’s Club about once a week to stock up on snacks for group events in addition to her personal shopping, she said. If a Costco were to open, she would purchase a membership but wouldn’t cancel her account with Sam’s Club, she said. “I would love to have both of the options,” she said. “I would like if they would make a Costco a little bit closer … I don’t want to take an Uber to groceries, because I’m just wasting more money than I should.” Costco has not announced any plans to open in Gainesville. Its next Florida location will likely be a recently approved project opening in Stuart, which began land clearance in June. @zoeythomas39 firstname.lastname@example.org
LUNES, 20 DE NOVIEMBRE DE 2023 www.alligator.org/section/elcaiman
Organización sin fines de lucro local conecta estudiantes internacionales con residentes de Gainesville para los feriado EL PROGRAMA ESTÁ DISEÑADO PARA COMBATIR EL AISLAMIENTO DE LOS ESTUDIANTES Y PROMOVER INTERCAMBIOS CULTURALES
Por Eluney Gonzalez Escritora de Personal del Caimán
A medida que se acerca la temporada navideña, la mayoría de los estudiantes abandonan Gainesville para visitar a amigos y familiares durante Acción de Gracias y Navidad, entre otras festividades invernales, lo que deja a muchos estudiantes internacionales de la UF sintiéndose alejados de las festividades. Solos y sin poder regresar a sus familias en el extranjero, esta época del año puede resultar aislante ya que las ciudades cierran durante las vacaciones. "Todo está cerrado y el lugar se siente como un pueblo fantasma", dijo Marta Wayne, directora del Centro Internacional de la UF [UF International Center]. Para mitigar este problema, el Centro Internacional de la zona metropolitana de Gainesville [Greater Gainesville International Center] está colaborando con el UFIC para emparejar a estudiantes internacionales con familias anfitrionas en Gainesville durante las vacaciones. El objetivo es conectar a las personas durante este tiempo difícil y aislante, según Lauren Poe, presidente de GGIC y exalcalde de Gainesville. "Pero creo que más que nada, simplemente ser acogedores",
dijo Poe. "Decir, 'Hola, te vemos, sabemos que este es un momento difícil'. Solo sé más inclusivo con las personas que están desconectadas de nuestras tradiciones estadounidenses". Una familia anfitriona prospectiva invitará a sus estudiantes internacionales a comidas y actividades en días festivos culturales significativos, incluyendo Acción de Gracias, Hanukkah, Navidad, Año Nuevo y Ramadán, entre otros. "Nos interesa que las familias compartan comidas o se encuentren con los estudiantes para tomar café", dijo Wayne. "Idealmente, la conexión durará todo el año". Además de los beneficios para los estudiantes, Poe y Wayne esperan que las interacciones vayan en ambas direcciones. "También esperamos que el programa facilite el intercambio cultural entre los estudiantes y la familia de Gainesville con la que sean emparejados", dijo Wayne. Poe estuvo de acuerdo, agregando: "Sería una oportunidad realmente importante para que las familias conozcan gente nueva y aprendan sobre las tradiciones y la identidad cultural de otra persona". Terrence Ho, miembro de la junta de GGIC, se inscribió como anfitrión durante las vacaciones en honor a sus experiencias personales en el extranjero. Durante sus años en el extranjero, más de 100 familias lo han hospedado. "He experimentado y brindado hospitalidad a personas de todo el
Patty Pascual // Alligator Staff
mundo durante muchos, muchos años", dijo Ho. "Y para mí, parece ser la principal cosa que cura la xenofobia, la ignorancia. Ese es el tipo de cosas que desearía poder seguir transmitiendo". Algo que Ho ha notado entre los estudiantes internacionales es su naturaleza cerrada. "Por ejemplo, muchas personas en la comunidad china simplemente se quedarán dentro de la comunidad china y pasarán el rato con personas chinas", dijo Ho. "Mi consejo sería hacer menos de eso, mezclarse con otras personas, hac-
er el esfuerzo de conocer a personas sobre las que no sabes nada". Esta temporada navideña marca el lanzamiento del programa "Familias de Amistad". Poe planea comenzar pequeño y construir gradualmente este nuevo programa. En esta temporada, hay alrededor de veinte familias anfitrionas, y cada familia hospeda entre uno y cinco estudiantes a la vez. Además de expandirse a más familias, Wayne espera que este sistema de apoyo pueda extenderse más allá de las vacaciones y consolidar aún más la conexión
entre la familia y el estudiante. "Una característica adicional agradable sería que las familias vinieran a la graduación", dijo Wayne. "Algunas de las familias de nuestros estudiantes internacionales no pueden estar aquí para la graduación debido a limitaciones financieras, de salud o de visa; es agradable tener a alguien en el lugar animándote después de todo tu arduo trabajo". @Eluney_G email@example.com
Gainesville nonprofit connects international students with Gainesville residents for the holidays THE PROGRAM IS DESIGNED TO COMBAT STUDENT ISOLATION AND PROMOTE CULTURAL EXCHANGES
By Eluney Gonzalez Alligator Staff Writer
As the holiday season approaches, most students flock from Gainesville to visit friends and family for Thanksgiving and Christmas, among other winter holidays, leaving many UF international students feeling estranged from the festivities. Alone and unable to return to their families abroad, this time of year can be isolating as cities shut down for the holidays. “Everything is closed and the place feels like a ghost town,” Marta Wayne, director of the UF International Center, said. To mitigate this problem, the Greater Gainesville International Center is partnering with the UFIC to match international students with host families in Gainesville
for the holidays. The goal is to connect people during this difficult and isolating time, GGIC president and former Gainesville mayor Lauren Poe said. “But I think more than anything, just being welcoming,” Poe said. “Saying, ‘Hey, we see you, we know that this is a difficult time.’ Just be more inclusive to folks who are cut off from our American traditions.” A prospective host family will invite its international students for meals and activities on significant cultural holidays, including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's and Ramadan among others. “We’re interested in families sharing meals or meeting students for coffee,” Wayne said. “Ideally, the connection will last all year.” Apart from the benefit to the students, Poe and Wayne hope the interactions will go both directions. “We’re also hoping the program will facilitate cultural exchange between the stu-
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dents and the Gainesville family they are matched with,” Wayne said. Poe agreed, adding: “It would be a really important opportunity for the families to meet new people and learn about someone else's traditions and cultural identity.” Terrence Ho, a GGIC board member, signed up to be a holiday host in honor of his personal experiences abroad. In his years abroad, over 100 families have hosted him. “I've experienced and given hospitality to people all over the world for many, many, many years,” Ho said. “And it to me seems to be the main thing that cures xenophobia, ignorance. That's the sort of stuff that I just wish I could keep paying forward.” Something Ho has noticed among international students is their insular nature. “For instance, a lot of people in the Chinese community will just stay within the Chinese community and hang out with Chinese people,” Ho said. “My advice would
Miami Vice Mobile brings smoke shop on wheels to Gainesville. Read more on pg. 7.
be to do less of that, to mix with other people, to make the effort to meet people who you don't know anything about.” This holiday season marks the launch of the Friendship Families program. Poe plans to start small and build up this brand-new program gradually. This season, there are about twenty host families, with each family hosting between one and five students at a time. Aside from expanding to more families, Wayne hopes this support system can extend beyond the holidays and further cement the family-student connection. “One additional nice feature would be if families came to graduation,” Wayne said. “Some of our international students’ families can’t be here for graduation due to financial, health, or visa limitations; it’s nice to have someone on-site cheering for you after all your hard work.”
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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023 www.alligator.org/section/the_avenue
Miami Vice Mobile brings smoke shop on wheels to Gainesville THE MIAMI-BASED BUSINESS OFFERS NICOTINE, CBD PRODUCTS AND ‘SIDEWALK PSYCHOLOGY’ TO NIGHTLIFE
By Bonny Matejowsky Avenue Staff Writer
For people stumbling out of the dark, drunken stupor of Midtown or leaving Raising Cane’s after a late-night snack, a bright blue van parked on University Avenue offers an enticing menu. But it’s not your traditional ice cream or taco truck. The cartoon image of a throned man relishing a smokey cigar and hookah on the beaches of Miami, plastered on the truck’s exterior, signals otherwise. Its sliding doors reveal a blacklight interior with a glimmering glass counter of goodies for partygoers: nicotine and CBD, in all of its shapes and forms. Miami Vice Mobile is the brainchild of 25-year-old Pedro Soler, a proud Miami local. Originally working in real estate, he was in for a shock when he got the chance to sell a smoke shop. “When I found out how much the cost was wholesale versus what I was paying for it, I almost had an aneurysm,” Soler said. As someone with a long-standing passion for business and start-up experience, he knew it was an opportunity he could not miss out on. He took a jump, and after a year of planning and financing, Miami Vice Mobile opened its sliding doors in 2021. “I didn’t have anybody to look up
to,” Soler said. “I was the first guy to do this in Miami.” Two years, two vans and one permanent location in Miami later, a blossoming and unconventional business emerged, bringing vapes, cigarettes, CBD products and accessories to events all across Florida. But besides its titular residence in Miami-Dade County, the company has taken a liking to Gainesville, making it a regular spot for sales. Miami Vice Mobile made its way to the city after Soler met Justin Mendoza, a 23-year-old UF business management student. “The one thing that really reeled me in more than anything about Gainesville is the people,” Mendoza said. ”My goal was not to make a lot of money and be a millionaire but serve the people that made me who I am today.” With Mendoza’s encouragement of Gainesville’s promise, the pair worked together to bring Miami Vice Mobile to the Swamp. The pink and blue van arrived in August and has been here ever since. From 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the van makes its rounds anywhere from Midtown to Downtown, stopping to sell to the hustle and bustle of Gainesville’s nightlife. Sunday and Monday, it delivers orders to anyone in Gainesville who orders on their hotline. In between, it sells at corporate events, private parties, concerts and more. Julio Lanzas, a Miami Vice Mobile sales associate from Miami, was surprised by the wide range of places they’ve found themselves selling at.
“We ended up going to the Everglades in the middle of the swamp,” said Lanzas. “We’ve gone to house parties, city events, we’ve done a whole bunch of crazy stuff.” There are many perks to this business model. For starters, it doesn’t need to rely on customers to come to a singular location. It can bring the party, and as Soler says, “Miami heat” to the people. And, the convenience of delivering products to people’s homes opens the door beyond the nightlife scene. The bonuses don’t come without setbacks, however. If it’s raining or excessively cold, fewer people are outside to purchase from them, Soler said. Also, car issues like a flat tire or wreck can curb an entire night of potential sales. Originally, there were three mobile smoke shops until a drunk driver totaled one. Yet, their services go beyond just selling CBD pre-rolls and neon Elf bars. “At this point, we should be charging for psychology fees,” Soler said. “We’re sidewalk psychologists at times.” Whether it’s witnessing bar fights, consoling people going through break-ups, cleaning bodily fluids off the van’s exterior or aiding someone who had a phone thrown at their head, Soler says they’ve seen it all. “We come with composure here,” Mendoza said. “We understand that they’re intoxicated and they’re frustrated or they’re just over-exerted.” Along with the nicotine and CBD
Claire Grunewald // Alligator Staff
A customer talks with a worker of the Miami Vice Mobile outside Midtown Plaza on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. products, the van carries water bottles, hand sanitizer and paper towels to hand out to the night goers who may have partied a little too hard. The Miami Vice team also will charge bar goers’ dead phones and give them advice, free of cost. “It’s something that I wasn’t expecting,” Soler said. “We’re almost like Mother Teresa in a way.” If the whole “selling out of a van” model sounds questionable, Soler wants people to know they do things by the book. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized the sale of hemp-derived products, which allows retailers like Miami Vice Mobile to sell cannabinoids including CBD, Delta 8 and Delta 9 legally. It strictly abides by Florida’s mandatory age limit of 21 and up for all of its products, Soler said.
As well as having a legal and HR team, the truck does not sell on the UF campus. Looking to the future, Soler has big ambitions. Along with opening more permanent stores, he’s already adopted other atypical forms of selling products, such as a smoke shop vending machine in Miami equipped with age verification and facial recognition technology. But for now, Miami Vice Mobile has no plans of leaving Gainesville behind. “We’re definitely here to stay,” Soler said. “I’m excited once we get a little more warmed up to show you guys how we do things from our side of town.” @bonnymatejowsky firstname.lastname@example.org
Giving thanks from afar: Why some UF students are not heading home for the holidays
UF international students, graduate students are spending Thanksgiving away from family By Jared Teitel Avenue Staff Writer
Raised among the vibrant city streets and playful neighborhoods of Kumasi, Ghana, in West Africa, Melvin Osei Opoku sighs with a smile whenever he thinks of home. More than 6,000 miles away for nearly two years, the 21-year-old UF biomedical engineering sophomore celebrates every holiday in the States. “It becomes a little lonely,” Opoku said, recalling each holiday break he spent on UF’s campus. “It really hits me harder during the breaks.” Opoku is just one of the several students, international and native, spending their Thanksgiving holiday away from those they have long
celebrated with. Whether thousands of miles apart from their hometown or swarmed with studying for final exams, circumstances of all sorts are keeping many from their family dining tables this week. Opoku’s last memories of his home country lie in the days before leaving for United World College-USA in Northwest New Mexico to pursue the International Baccalaureate program, a worldwide college-prep program for high school students. Stepping foot on U.S. soil for the first time in December 2021, Opoku said he was taken aback by the “more quiet, peaceful” temperament of the citizens, opposite to those he met in Ghana. “From my experience…[The U.S.] is so dis-
Keep up with the Avenue on Twitter. Tweet us @TheFloridaAve.
similar to Ghana,” he said. “In Ghana, people are running about, jumping…all kinds of emotions.” But upon beginning his freshman year at UF in Fall 2022, the college’s social scene came as an even bigger cultural shock. To Opoku, no schedule dictated his time, contrary to how his friends functioned. “Relying on [spontaneity] to interact with other people is not going to work, and that’s what I relied on the most,” he said. “Americans are more cautious of their time.” Nonetheless, Opoku said he acclimated into American society just like he hoped to, making friends with fellow students and professors who would invite him into their homes for the holidays.
Last Thanksgiving, he feasted at the dinner table of UF chemistry professor Alexander Angerhofer, while celebrating a ‘White Christmas’ with a friend in Boston, he said. But Thursday, Opoku will reunite with his host family from his high school years. A Ghanaian family of four living in Atlanta, they were all but eager to take in someone just like them. Opoku said the patriarch reached out to him after reading a news article written about Opoku. Read the rest online at alligator.org/section/the_avenue. @JaredTeitel email@example.com
UF dismantles Florida State, improves to 3-1. Read more on pg. 11. Scan to follow the Avenue on Spotify
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023 www.alligator.org/section/opinions
An ‘upmound’ battle: Land acknowledgements at UF
grew up in the Dunedin-Clearwater area, and one of the parks in Safety executive branch publicly speaks), she never gave one. At the address she Harbor I frequented had an “Indian mound.” I didn’t know the weight of attested that her administration had a policy to “put the student first.” Is this its meaning until I was much older, and Tocobaga was a name that had putting the at least 0.24% of students who identify as “American Indian or hardly ever crossed my mind at all. Alaska Native” first? Fighting for land acknowledgments at UF has been a battle up a much I ask the individuals who overturn these initiatives or have stood as a steeper, larger mound than the one in Safety Harbor. barrier in our advocacy to reflect on these questions: What is so upsetting When I joined Student Government as the senator representing the College about taking a minute to give a name to the people whose land was taken? of the Arts in 2021, I was elated to meet Jonathan C. Stephens and see they Cassie Urbenz Why have you never given one? The reason why we’ve fought so hard to GAU were working on getting land acknowledgments in more on-campus spaces. enact policy mandating land acknowledgements is plain and simple: if they I remembered the first time the School of Theatre and Dance (SoTD) did are not required, they are not given. one — the way I felt hearing the names of the actual tribes whose land we were on. I In the spirit of acknowledgment, I’m a first-generation Canadian-American of had never heard of the Timucua people or Potano tribe before, and neither had others Mi’kmaq and Beothuk descent, very largely disconnected from the First Nations office in the room. over 2,200 miles away in Newfoundland. I very much identify as white, especially in This is why I wrote my most personal and researched bill, SSB2022-1059: Resolution America where most Indigenous tribes look very different from me. There’s a heavy, Commemorating November as American Native Heritage Month after very little success distant connection to a heritage I don’t know much about. I’m not included in the in our work advocating for land acknowledgments. It had 14 sponsors. Fourteen people statistic of 0.24% of students because I don’t self identify. within our student Senate bothered to take a second to toss their names on a list of There’s a lot to be said about the “Indian mound” we’ve been forced to climb in people in support of the bill. order to get the bare minimum. With the fact that the mound in Safety Harbor was a This bill originally included a clause pushing for expanded land acknowledgments burial mound, and the fact that the University of Florida holds over 2,000 unrepatriated at UF. The senators in the judiciary committee at the time removed it, gutting my bill. ancestral remains in Dickinson Hall, the Western narrative of homogeneity among Without including a statement supporting further usage of land acknowledgements, the Indigenous people needs to be disrupted in order to help alleviate errors like this. The bill became a compilation of information with no real call to action. amount of research required to repatriate these remains is far larger due to the fact that I had hand-copied the individual names of over 135 tribes whose land was stolen in there was likely no care for tribal affiliation when they were collected. The conceptual the Morrill Act of 1862 simply for a few students to look at them and do nothing about extinction of these individuals is often made light of, but for a lot of us, their memory it. One student broke party lines and three or four others followed his lead when I put weighs heavy on us as we try to walk uphill towards a decolonized world. forth an amendment adding my clause back in. Please keep an eye out for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related The amendment adding back the single most important clause in my whole bill was Sciences (MANRRS), Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in one vote away from passing. This was the first time I cried during Senate, silently, Science (SACNAS), and the aforementioned American Indian in Science and Engineering toward the back of the chamber. Society (AISES), student organizations that support Indigenous students’ professional There was then a bill requiring a land acknowledgment to be given by SG officials development and overall well-being. at certain events, which was vetoed by UF Student Body President Olivia Green, then I encourage us all to reflect carefully about how we can honor, support, and uplift overturned with well over 2/3 by the Senate, and finally vetoed by vice president Indigenous communities this month. Happy Native American Heritage Month. of student life Heather White. This was when it finally died. In several statements, SBP Green said she was interested in “incorporating this into her administration” as Cassie Urbenz is the Communications Co-Chair of UF Graduate Assistants United (GAU) and a first-year Design & Visual Communications (MFA/MxD) graduate student. damage control, but during the event I specifically advocated for including a land acknowledgement in (the State of the Campus Address, one of/the only time the
Is the CWC effective? Thoughts from a UF student
fter the unforgettable years that surrounded COVID-19, it is not surprising that therapy has become one of the most popular ways for people to deal with this crisis. During this time, I reached out to therapy as a way to process the large changes that were happening in my life as well as the lives of the people I loved. While therapy, for me, was a positive experience, attaining a therapist was another stress that added to the problems I already had. As a UF student, I was aware of my access to the Counseling and Wellness Center. At the CWC there are a multitude of resources that can help students struggling in various parts of their lives. But what I wanted most was to talk to someone and get help figuring out what exactly was bothering me. At the time, the CWC was only offering online sessions, but that was strictly a COVID era, today this is not the case. However, because the sessions were only online, I felt that there was already a wall between me and my therapist to begin with. Not being able to meet face to face made me feel I wouldn’t be able to connect with my therapist on a deeper level. Despite this, I decided to go ahead and try the program.
After reaching out, I was told I wouldn’t be able to get an appointment for about a month unless I was potentially going to hurt myself. I understood that COVID had flooded their department with new patients, but it was extremely frustrating. My issues were also time sensitive, so this did not seem like a good route to continue on. I researched other therapists and centers in the area, but the cost and unwillingness of insurance to cooperate added another burden to receiving help. So, I decided to wait. I battled my own issues and marked the days for weeks until I could talk to someone. Finally, my appointment day finally came. I had never been to therapy before, so I didn’t realize the first appointment was more about formalities and basic information than anything. I was able to discuss some of my problems, but I was told to wait another two weeks before we could have another session where we’d get more in depth. I was disappointed to say the least. After realizing I would not get help in the time I needed, I sought therapy in a different place, and even though it hurt my bank account, I received the help I needed. This is not to say the CWC does not do amazing work, they do. But I never felt like anyone was concerned for me;
I was just another patient that had to be fit in the schedule somewhere. It seemed like they didn’t have enough staff to support the amount of need coming from the students. But times have changed quite significantly from the “COVID years’’ and by looking retrospectively, I can at least Cayman Forbes say I was thankful to have a program firstname.lastname@example.org to turn to. I know many people who have benefited greatly from therapy and other services it provides. However, I do think that one of the downsides of being a student at UF means that you will deal with excessive wait times and competition to receive services. I wouldn’t say I would never try the CWC again, but I think anyone who does try it needs to go in with the knowledge that there are a lot of students at UF and very few providers to accommodate for this. The CWC makes it known that for students who are in urgent situations, care is immediately available. They also have a referral process to help allocate the numerous students to a therapist or service that works for them outside of UF. Cayman Forbes is a UF political science and international studies senior.
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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023 www.alligator.org/section/sports
Resilient Gators continue to fight despite mounting losses FLORIDA FALLS SHORT IN HEARTBREAKING LOSS TO MISSOURI
By Topher Adams Sports Writer
There’s seemingly no reason left for Florida to play hard. The Gators lost three games in a row, dropped to .500 on the season and were only playing for pride and a chance at a minor bowl game. These aren’t the stakes expected at a program with championship aspirations like Florida. But against the No. 11 Missouri Tigers Nov. 18, the Gators played one of their best games all season against their most challenging adversity. The Florida Gators (5-6, 3-5 SEC) fell to the No. 10 Missouri Tigers (9-2, 5-2 SEC) 33-31 after Mizzou quarterback Brady Cook led the Tigers down the field for a game-winning field goal with five seconds to play. Florida started the game without redshirt sophomore tackle Austin Barber or redshirt junior center Kingsley Eguakun. Redshirt sophomore tackle Damieon George Jr. went down during the game. Most concerning of all, star redshirt junior quarterback Graham Mertz went down with a serious collarbone injury in the third quarter. Yet, through the injuries and the disappointment of a season all but lost, the Gators still fought. Florida led by three with less than a minute to play. And then another gut punch in a year of moments to forget sunk Florida once again. UF sat seconds away from securing a signature win for second-year head coach Billy Napier. Missouri faced a 4th-and-17 from its own territory with time ticking away. Cook scanned the field and found his favorite target, receiver Luther Burden III, wide-open for the first down. “We’ve got multiple players in the area, and we’ve got four rushing, and he found the soft spot in the zone there,” Napier said postgame. “We had our opportunities for sure.” The coverage bust led to more lapses in the secondary, and the Tigers rolled into chip-shot field goal range for Harrison Mevis to break Florida’s hearts. The disastrous final drive and heartbreaking field goal will forever define the Gators’ trip to Faurot Field this season, but it’s a testament to Napier’s team to have been in this position
for heartbreak against a top opponent at this point in the year. Brown only played in four games his entire college career before Mertz went down against Missouri. He’d thrown all of seven passes, with most of his action coming in the final minutes of blowout wins. With Florida trailing in the second half, the Gators needed an unproven Brown to be the hero. “You're always one play away,” Brown said. “You've got to stay ready.” Brown looked like an inexperienced quarterback early. He flubbed a handoff and fumbled the ball away, leading to a crucial Missouri touchdown. But the Tulsa, Oklahoma, product battled back from the turnover and led the Gators back. He used his athleticism to open up the quarterback run game — he finished with 42 rushing yards — which also opened up rushing lanes for dynamic sophomore running back Trevor Etienne. Etienne led the offense with 119 scrimmage yards and scored a crucial touchdown in the fourth quarter to keep the Gators in striking distance. Brown and Etienne combined to drive Florida down the field one final time for a field goal to take a lead with seconds to play. While an injured offense rallied around a young quarterback, a maligned UF defense played one of its best games of the season for 59 minutes. Florida held one of the best offenses in the SEC to 33 — the second-fewest for Missouri in conference play — and routinely made key stops. The Gators surrendered a program-record 702 yards against Louisiana State Nov. 11 but stifled the Tigers early. Mizzou scored just 13 points in the first half, and playmakers like Burden and receiver Theo Wease were relatively quiet early. “I think defensively, in particular, we bounced back and played a good half of football to start the game,” Napier said. Florida defenders flew to the football and forced stops in the red zone to limit scoring. Redshirt senior linebacker Teradja Mitchell highlighted an encouraging performance with a teamhigh seven tackles. Mitchell played an increased role with redshirt sophomore Scooby Williams dealing with an injury, and star sophomore Shemar James sidelined since Oct. 28. Despite an encouraging performance and strong effort, Florida once again failed to cross the finish line. Missouri broke through in the second half, including a 77-yard touchdown to Wease and 62 passing yards from Cook on the game-winning
Ryan Friedenberg // Alligator Staff
Sophomore running back Trevor Etienne carries the ball in the Gators’ 39-36 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. field goal drive. The loss sank Florida below .500 for the season and to its third-straight losing season in conference play. A loss against Florida State in the season finale would clinch three straight losing seasons for the first time since the 1940s. But even as the losses continue to stack and a once-promising season spirals toward another failure, the Gators continue to fight. “I’m proud of that group,” Napier said. “It’s a challenge to be prepared to play physically, mentally, and emotionally when you come up short a couple weeks in a row.” Napier praised the team’s leadership in helping the team stay resilient and focused through adversity. Florida will face one final battle this season as it hosts the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles Nov. 25. Both teams will deal with uncertainty at quarterback. While Florida awaits Mertz’s status, the Seminoles will be without sixth-year quarterback Jordan Travis who suffered a serious leg injury in FSU’s win over Northern Alabama Nov. 19. Kickoff at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is slated for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN. @Topher_Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
Gators men’s basketball makes statement in win against Florida State Florida moved to 3-1 on the season amidst Zyon Pullin’s return By Jackson Reyes Sports Writer
The Gators men’s basketball team came out firing on all cylinders and rolled the Seminoles Nov. 17 — it also answered UF head coach Todd Golden’s challenge to the team. “What are you going to be about?” Golden said after the win. “Are you going to take care of your home court, or, you know, are you going to allow another outcome to happen?” Florida (3-1) took down Florida State (2-1) Nov. 17 and Florida A&M (0-4) Nov. 14, both by a score of 89-68. Golden
described the 21-point victory against instate rivals FSU as a “statement victory.” “That was a statement game tonight for us,” Golden said. “I’m really proud of our guys for the way they played.” Florida lit it up from the floor to open the game and jumped out to a 36-9 lead. Four Gators players scored in double figures, and the team shot 51.7% from the field. The FSU game also marked the debut of graduate student guard Zyon Pullin. The UC Riverside transfer missed UF’s first three games, serving a suspension. Pullin came off the bench to start the game but played a significant role in 28
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minutes. He scored 15 points on 4-9 shooting. The graduate student guard missed his first two shots but eventually found his footing midway through the first half. He caught the ball at the top of the arc, pump faked, took a dribble to the left to get an open shot and drilled a triple for his first points as a UF player. Pullin also grabbed five rebounds and dished four assists in the win. The Gators' backcourt trio of guards, sophomore Riley Kugel, junior Walter Clayton Jr. and Pullin, all scored in double figures and combined for 44 points. “I think this group can do a lot of
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winning,” Pullin said. “If we can lock in on the small things that will make us a good team.” The pair — Pullin and Clayton — also combined for nine assists. Clayton and Pullin acknowledged there were still things to work on, but the duo clicked early. “It was great,” Clayton said. “Playing out there with [Pullin]. I just felt like it was great chemistry.” The Gators have also looked to their freshmen for valuable minutes. Freshman forward Alex Condon scored 17 points against Florida A&M and nine points against FSU.
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SEE MEN'S BASKETBALL, PAGE 12
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12 ALLIGATOR MONDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2023
UF defeats rivals
MEN'S BASKETBALL, from pg. 11
Ryan Friedenberg // Alligator Staff
Junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. drives with the basketball in the Gators’ 89-68 win against the Florida State Seminoles on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.
“[Condon’s] a guy that’s exceeded our expectations in terms of being ready and in terms of being able to help,” Golden said. The Gators’ frontcourt dealt with foul trouble against the Noles, which allowed freshman forward Thomas Haugh to play a career-high 26 minutes. He made the most of the opportunity, grabbing 10 boards, scoring five points and blocking two shots in the win. “[Haugh] is kind of like your super solid rock, right, just all the defensive
plays,” Golden said.” Golden emphasized how both players' inexperience and recruiting rankings don’t tell the full story of what they bring to the team. “They’re both wise beyond their years,” Golden said. “They weren’t guys that were highly decorated recruits, but I think a lot of people would want to have them on their team.” The contributions from UF’s freshmen and transfers have turned the team into a high-powered offensive team. Florida ranks in the top 25 in offensive efficiency at No. 24, according to KenPom as of Nov. 19. The Gators have scored more than 85 points in three of their four games this season.
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As of Nov. 19, UF won’t face another team currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 until Florida’s SEC opener against the Kentucky Wildcats Jan. 6. If the Gators can carry the momentum from their statement victory against the Seminoles, then the team can stack nonconference wins. Florida will head to Brooklyn, New York, for its next game against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the NIT Season Tip-Off Wednesday. The game will tip off at 9:30 p.m. and be broadcast on either ESPN2 or ESPNU. @JacksnReyes email@example.com