Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The Maverick GDI Speaks!
TheRaDiKaL: Who are you? When did you arrive at UF and what organizations/causes are you active with?
Sen. Eric Wolf: I'm a fourth-year Political Science and Geography student from Bradenton, Florida. I started at UF in Fall 2005 intending to study Political Science and Music. I've been involved in Model United Nations, several music organizations, and I was Treasurer of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honorary, which took up a lot of my time prior to entering Student Government.
After being elected to Senate, I was asked by Senate President Kellie Dale to serve as the Student Government Finance Liaison. I've been working with the finance office ever since to streamline the budget process for student organizations. I'm also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Budget and Appropriations Committee, and I'm co-chairing an ad hoc committee to overhaul the Student Government website.
TheRaDiKaL: What got you factor(s) got you involved in Student Government? And what's it like serving the most important College at the University (I too was a CLAS Senator)?
Sen. Eric Wolf: I had little interaction with UF's Student Government until this last semester; I have always been interested in politics generally, and much of my youth was spent learning about government and public administration at the local government level. Last summer, I interned as a business climate analyst at Manatee County's Economic Development Council, and worked at a law firm representing clients who had been ripped off by corrupt stock-brokers and investment banks. Helping people fight against massive corporations—and often winning those battles—was a great thrill for me, and really inspired me to consider going into public service.
Serving as a Senator representing the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is an incredible honor. Undoubtedly, what I love the most about CLAS is its remarkable diversity. CLAS includes people from every walk of life, studying an amazing range of disciplines, and I'm really humbled to be their voice in Student Government. It drives me to work as hard as I possibly can for them.
TheRaDiKaL: What can you tell us about the Orange & Blue Party's role in Senate? Are caucus meetings run collectively? To what extent do the Party senators listen to the Party's campaign-time Executive Board?
Sen. Eric Wolf: Since our party is vastly outnumbered in chambers—roughly, 10 Orange and Blue Senators to 80 Gator Party Senators—we have to pick and choose our battles wisely for maximum effectiveness. I think the majority party was surprised that they would have to adjust to our presence in chambers as much as they did. Perhaps this initial discomfort would be best represented by the fight over Sheldon Nagesh's residency in District E.
I would say that there is generally collective decision making within the party. I think one of the best things about Orange and Blue is that we have a great base of people who aren't in Senate—they're students who just truly care. Hearing their ideas and perspectives about watching Student Government from "outside the box" is really healthy.
Most of the Executive Board has input in these discussions, which I think is also healthy. I'm sorry to see that many of them are gone for the summer—it's been a different atmosphere without them.
TheRaDiKaL: Recently you made news when there was speculation that you had defected. In the end you remained loyal soley to preserve political diversity (a very noble cause), but was this really why you stayed? And if so, what pushed you to your initial decision?
Sen. Eric Wolf: The situation where I switched my party affiliation to Independent was sort of blown out of proportion. I mainly did it because I do consider myself an "Independent" in the Senate chambers, and I've been striving to place the best interests of the students in CLAS before any party label.
However, the way Senate rules work would have denied Orange and Blue a seat on the Replacement and Agenda committee, which certainly wasn't fair to all the people who voted for Orange and Blue and expected that party to be their voice in Senate. So, I quickly changed back my affiliation so that Orange and Blue could keep that seat on R&A.
TheRaDiKaL: Do you see yourself loyal to the O&B Party post-Fall 2008 elections, in which case they may have enough seats w/o you to be represented on the R&A Committee?
Sen. Eric Wolf: I can't really speculate on that. I'm loyal to the causes that Orange and Blue advanced in their Spring campaign—openness in government and making the Student Government work more effectively for all its constituents.
TheRaDiKaL: Again, back to your perception, do you feel as if you were somewhat of the Joe Lieberman of the Independent Party today? In other words, you are O&B on paper, but given your recent defection-scare, do you believe the Party considers you as close and friendly to its line as say those around elected with you last Spring?
Sen. Eric Wolf: I suppose this is a question that's better asked of the other Orange and Blue Party Senators. Something I respect about Orange and Blue is that there isn't such a premium on ideological purity. We have a great group of Senators with wide-ranging interests and areas of expertise, and I think we genuinely value each other's talents. I'm still continually impressed by the maturity and poise of Ben Cavataro, the intelligence and encyclopedic memory of Kyle Huey, the wit and charm of Liz Stinson, and the grit and tenacity of Mark McShera.
TheRaDiKaL: What was your overall take on the O&B Presidential ticket and to what extent would you as a Party Senator expect to be consulted in regards to next Fall's O&B Senate slate and next Spring's prospective Executive & Senate selections?
Sen. Eric Wolf: Well, I have the utmost respect for Tommy Jardon. I think he's a brilliant thinker and strategist, and I truly admire his commitment to "speaking truth to power." Tommy understands the structure and functions of Student Government far more than many give him credit for.
Frank Bracco is a good friend of mine, and I'm continually impressed by his depth of knowledge—especially for someone who has only had two years to learn the historical nuances of UF's Student Government. He works harder than just about anyone I know, and I'm very pleased to be serving in Senate with him currently. So far, as the Graham Senator, Frank's been a great addition to Senate, and I'm sure he has a bright future ahead of him.
I hardly know Shea Parrish, Orange and Blue's candidate for Treasurer. I only met her a few times, in fact, so I don't have much to say about her. She did seem knowledgeable and personable, and I'm sorry that I didn't get the chance to get to know her better.
I'm planning on graduating in December of 2008, so I don't expect to have much input in next year's ticket. I have confidence in the judgment of Ben Cavataro, Kyle Huey, and Mark McShera, and I'm looking forward to hearing about their accomplishments after I leave Gainesville.
TheRaDiKaL: Are you a member of, have you applied to, or do you plan on applying to Florida Blue Key? Why or why not?
Sen. Eric Wolf: I've never applied to Blue Key, and I haven't really considered to too seriously. I don't know how the application process works, so I suppose I'd want to know more about it before I thought about applying.
TheRaDiKaL: Are you a member of any social or academic Greek-letter organization? If so, of which?
Sen. Eric Wolf: As I said before, I was Treasurer of Omicron Delta Kappa. I've met some of my favorite people at UF through ODK, and I encourage anyone interested to get involved and apply.
TheRaDiKaL: What is your take on the Turncoats (e.g. Kim Cruts, Ryan Day, Josh Simmons, Ben Grove)? Would you ever leave the side of the movement that represents 85% of the Gator Nation for "greener pastures?" Why or why not?
Sen. Eric Wolf: Ben Grove has been a classmate and good friend for a few years. We never really talked about Student Government politics, and I've hardly seen him since I was elected—last semester, he was away most of the time campaigning or doing work for the RNC. Ben and I have rather deep political differences, nationally-speaking, and we've always been able to respect each other for those beliefs. I'm pretty sure that we could handle not seeing eye-to-eye on Student Government politics, as well. Now that he and Kim have both moved off to DC, I don't think they're too eager to involve themselves further in the tussles of campus politics.
I really don't know Ryan, Kim, or Josh very well. I got to know Ryan somewhat during the first few months of my term; it seemed that he was a valuable asset to Ryan Moseley when he was President.
As far as "greener pastures" go, I'm perfectly content with the pastures I'm currently grazing. I'm not looking to represent 85% of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or The Gator Nation—I'm trying to represent every single student.
TheRaDiKaL: Tell us what's it like working with the Gator Party in senate. Also include your best bipartisan moment to date, your worst partisan-based horror story, and what major showdowns and/or collective efforts you expect for the summer session.
Sen. Eric Wolf: My time in Senate has been, hands down, the best practical experience I've gained at UF. Legislative politics is all about relationship building, give-and-take, forging alliances, and creating consensus, and all of those skills take practice. So far, I feel I've had a good working relationship with the Gator Party—many of their Senators don't care much for party politics, and are eager to find ways to transcend the partisanship and attain real results.
I would say that I'm most proud of the bipartisanship that we reached in the ad hoc committee on overhauling the SG website that I co-chaired. The committee consisted of four Orange and Blue Party members, including myself, and five Gator Party members, led by my co-chair, Senator Jason Hancock, and I&C Chairwoman Suzanne Hershman. We were given only two weeks to produce a report on what we would like to see in an ideal website—and I think our results were remarkable. Senators Cain Norris, Kyle Huey, and Joshua Horton, all Orange and Blue Senators, helped Senator Hancock build a mock-up website that we all felt would be an excellent way to get students involved in SG. Our committee is going to be working with the Executive Branch to implement the site for the fall semester.
I think the only real "horror story" would be the situation surrounding Sheldon Nagesh's residency.
I think many of my fellow Orange and Blue Senators would be surprised to hear how highly many of the Gator Party Senators think of them. If anything, Senate's not boring anymore for the majority party Senators.
TheRaDiKaL: Last, but most certainly not least, please tell us what you'd like to accomplish during your time at UF SG.
Sen. Eric Wolf: I'm really focused on getting a better website up, right now. That's my immediate goal; long term, I'd like to see some of our party's platform points move along in chambers, specifically the Webmail overhaul. It's a platform point that both parties are extremely eager to work on—and summer is the perfect time to do it.
Another project I'm very excited to be working on is a new "Budget 101" training manual that Budget Committee is creating. We're hoping that it's a user-friendly guide that will allow student leaders to navigate the often confusing SG budget process with confidence.