TheRadiKaL: Please tell us about yourself. When did you arrive at UF, what year are you, what major, and what organizations you initially got involved with at UF.
Senator Benjamin Dictor:
Political Science Major
European Union Studies Minor
I came to UF as a transfer student in the spring of 2007. The first group I got involved with was the Industrial Workers of the World through the Civic Media Center. Through the IWW I was introduced to many of the organizers of other organizations and we began to organize the University of Florida Progressive Caucus. It was more or less an umbrella organization for many of the progressive organizations, on and off campus. It is a shame that the Caucus has, as of late, been inactive with the transition of many of the leaders of the organizations and my involvement in the Senate. I am in the process of jumpstarting the Caucus again under new, less senior leadership that will ensure its continued existence.
I am also serving my second term as the Vice President of the Political Science Honor Society.
TheRaDiKaL: How did you come to learn of Student Government. Share with us your journey from beginning to present. What obstacles did you meet along the way?
Senator Benjamin Dictor: I voted in the Fall 2007 election for the Progress Party having never met anyone from the organization throughout the entire month of campaigning. They were essentially invisible to the average student; huddled behind their tables in Turlington and the Reitz. After I voted, I finally met Ben Cavataro and a number of other Progress Party people behind their table on the colonnade. I inquired as to their ground strategy and organizing efforts only to find that the organization was so small, the network so limited and the strategy so defeatist that their ground game was essentially developing a mythos in contrast to the Greek party and assuming the average student cared.
I started meeting with Sam, Ben, Mark, Tommy and a few other members of the Old Guard at Maudes on a weekly basis and brought various members of progressive organizations to the meetings to help me evaluate the situation and get them involved. The purpose of these meetings was, at the time, discussing Online Voting as it had not yet been struck down by the Court. Joe Richard and I brought along Charlie Gapskie to one particular meeting where he stressed the importance of classical political organizing.
What these meetings accomplished for the independent party
movement was making a much needed connection with the progressive community and making us feel like we had a stake in the outcome of the student government elections. While some members of the then Progress Party surely wanted to be that connection for these organizations, others appear now in hindsight to have seen the progressive community solely as a means to an end.
This period of time gave me the opportunity to reach out to these organizations for slating and volunteers in the Spring. This was an incredibly important aspect of the Orange and Blue party's success. Although only a few of us ran in winning seats, almost our entire ground game was comprised of members of progressive organizations. Where the Greeks use unwilling and unmotivated pledge classes to hand out fliers, we brought a dedicated and experienced group of activists to the independent party, the majority of whom were not even slated but simply wanted to see the mission succeed. We would not have won a single seat without their dedication and tireless work. I would not be in the Senate if it was not for their hard work and I will never forget that. If it wasn't for their boots on the ground, it would have been bodies behind the table just as it was for the Progress Party.
The last day of campaigning brought a sight that I imagine many independent parties have never seen; the orange shirts far outnumbered the blue Gator Party Shirts in Turlington by the end of the day. We were beyond a political party at this point. Simply put, we had inspired and organized a movement. I'll never forget Tommy Jardon's amazement at the number of people we were able to organize; he was truly astonished. To this day, however, Will Foster and others criticize my conceptualization of what we do as a 'movement' and ridicule the notion of mass politics that has been key to our success.
theRadikal: Talk to us about that historic Fall 2008 campaign when an independent party, sans of any official Greek or Multi-Cultural support, split District D, split the on-campus vote, and nearly took District C. Indie Students and Alums will celebrate this monumental campaign for years to come.
Senator Benjamin Dictor: Fall 2008 was in many ways simply a continuation of the strategy used in Spring 2008. On the first week we were able to campaign, I invited everyone out to the Lakeside residence hall for on-the-job-training in how to phone-bank and campaign. 20 or so volunteers and candidates came out. I sat down with Gary Benedix, our Lakeside candidate, and his roommates and explained that if they simply spent time outside the laundry facilities and common areas collecting names and emails of supporters, the election could be won handedly. In spite of the criticism I received for from the old guard for spending time and energy at Lakeside (presumed by them to be a lost cause) Gary did win and by some of the widest margins of the election.
I never wavered on my certainty that we would win Lakeside and other residence halls if we simply stopped relying solely on the Alligator to print stories in our favor and became our own best advocates on the ground. This is how I became acquainted with Dave Schneider (the only person who slated from Rawlings) who immediately impressed me with his conviction and dedication to winning. Everyone in our party told him from the day he slated forward that Rawlings was a lost cause and that he had no chance whatsoever of winning. Dave refused to give in to the cynicism and defeatism that had become a hallmark of the independent party, staying up until 3am with me spray painting campaign signs on the back porch of the CMC. Dave, ever the organizer himself, put together a fantastic team of volunteers in his residence hall and put up one hell of a fight. Needless to say, against all odds, Dave was successful and has been a fantastic addition to the Senate.
Off campus, our District A and B candidates were as dedicated as those who actually had a chance to win. While A and B encompass frat and sorority row, and are therefore near impossible, many progressive activists along with others went door-to-door and simply refused to give in. Our C and D candidates did the same and the results of the election show the effectiveness of boots on the ground as opposed to the classic strategy of bodies behind the table. Alden Gillespy, Donte Hargrove and so many others were relentless in their campaigning.
El--RadiKal: Once elected, what was your take on concessions that included a 'civil first meeting' to ensure the confirmation of senior senator Ben Cavatero (Hume)? Were you fearful of future 'concessions?'
Senator Benjamin Dictor: Cavataro is an absolutely essential part of the Orange and Blue Party. That being said, the last line of the Billy Bragg version of the Internationale is "Though they offer us concessions, change will not come from above."
TheRADIKAL: Describe to us the overall mutual cooperation and overall Party' coordination of Orange & Blue senators in chambers. What would you say was the term's high and low points, & why?
Senator Benjamin Dictor: There is very little coordination.
High Points: 1. Getting over three and a half hours of public debate from progressive organizations to speak out against the elimination of minority party rights. 2. Getting enough votes to kill Gator Party legislation that would have eliminated the minority protections in the Senate. 3. Sitting down with many Gator Party senators who vote their consciences in spite of increasing hostility from their own party for doing so.
Low Points: Finding out precisely how coercive the Gator Party is towards its own senators as a result.
The RADIKAL: Breakdown the current roster of the UF Student Senate Allocations Committee. Please name each member of the committee you serve on, sharing with us their individual strenghts, and also giving us an objective assessment of the committee's work for the Fall session 2008.
Senator Benjamin Dictor:
The RadiKaL: What is your take on having a non-student Senate secretary in chambers? This question does not refer to Glenda's day-time functions (which are very needed), but only to the her role within the student body.
Senator Benjamin Dictor: Sometimes I can't believe she stays there until midnight, haha. Because the current political situation on campus leaves us with student officials who are entirely unreliable and inept at their jobs (Greek patronage) I don???t mind having a non-student fulfill the role of secretary in the Student Senate. Her role in the chambers is needed and she provides some historical knowledge of the institution having been there for so long. Perhaps, under different political circumstances, a student could fulfill the role.
The RaDiKaL: Please tell us about SDS.
Senator Benjamin Dictor: Students for a Democratic Society is an organization of incredibly thoughtful and passionate individuals who attempt, more than most organizations I've observed, to practice what they preach. SDS is often misrepresented in the press and even more often invoked to over generalize about the progressive left in Gainesville. I have been vocally supportive of many of their projects over the course of the past two years and have absolutely no qualms about publicly voicing this. So long as SDS stands against mandatory hand scanners, for Socially Responsible Investing, against the war in Iraq, and for democratic principle, I will stand with SDS.
The RadiKaL: Though it's been often dismissed as rhetoric, to what degree would you say "the Left" assisted O&B in the historic Fall campaign?
Senator Benjamin Dictor: Absolutely essential. The progressive community was the cornerstone of the O&B victory in the Spring and laid the foundation for its success in the Fall. This is not to say it is the only reason we won, but the Orange and Blue Party simply cannot win without the support of Gainesville's progressive community.
The RaDiKaL: As of December I've begun classifying members of O&B into two groups, factions if you will. The classifications have worked very well for me and every single member falls almost perfectly into either class. What do the terms "Official" and "Progressive" mean to you?
Senator Benjamin Dictor:
Official: Old guard. The corrosive and defeatist mythos of the old "indie party" mentality.
Progressive: The strategy and mentality adopted since the Spring of 2008 elections. The only way Orange and Blue will continue to win.
The RaDiKaL: As leader of what I've dubbed "the Progs" and as a viable candidate for the O&B nomination in Spring 2009, what message would you like to send to those members of your party supporting Mark McShera?
Senator Benjamin Dictor: I'm not sure I am the leader of 'the progs.' I like Mark a lot and always have. He has the institutional knowledge and money needed by the party, but I am not certain that this alone makes a good candidate.
TheRadiKal: If you won the O&B nomination, would be some early objectives you'd like to declare in a Dictor presidency for the University of Florida?
Senator Benjamin Dictor:
1. Online voting
2. End Jacksonian patronage in all aspects of student government. This includes within the independent party movement itself. (Don???t be fooled, Sam even tried to write it into the bylaws with Article IV.)
3. Reform the budget process to end the economic stranglehold it allows over student organizations. Boss Tweed used potatoes, Gator Party uses Accent co-sponsorships among other things.
4. Begin plotting the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha (Thanks Ginsberg!)
THE RADIKAL: Name association, no word limit:
Dave Schneider: Dedicated, leader, organizer
"Grasshopper:" Respected, intelligent, worldly, patient (very proud to call my friend)
Stacey Gray: Optimistic, calm, committed
Sam Miorelli: Relentless
Joe Trimboli: Ideology
Skeet Surrency: ----My Pick for Student Body President!!!!!!----
Ben Cavatero: Statesman
Matt Goldberger: Only talked to this guy once. Read about him in the papers quite a bit though. Typical Gator Party kinda guy, you know? All variations on a theme???
Frank Bracco: Selfless
Joshua Simmons: Dynamic, Republican Alinsky, principled above all else
Jordan Loh: Ronald Regan (interpret as you wish, haha.)
Beau Frail: Sustainability
Jonathan Ossip: Brilliant.
Joe Bennett: Considerate, intelligent, leader
Thomas Jardon: Always a very nice guy to me.
Liz Stinson: Veteran.
Mark McShera: Knowledgeable, seasoned