Friday, March 27, 2009
Joe Bennett Speaks!
TheRadikal: Please tell us when you arrived at UF and what were some of the first organizations/causes you got involved with?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: I arrived at UF in the fall of 2005 and I didn’t really care about SG. I’d been in SG in high school and figured it was a bunch of dorks playing house and adding resume lines. I joined the gator swim club freshman year and then the UF Rugby team fall 2006. I never really got involved with any causes throughout my college career. I did some work with mentally handicapped kids for community service, but I wouldn't describe that as anything close to championing a cause. I directed most of my passions into UF Rugby; building it from a scrub club into a nationally ranked force to be reckoned with. I tore my ACL spring of 2008, taking me out of the game and leaving me with enough free time to find another cause. Queue entrance of Student Government.
The Radikal: How did you first learn about student government and what motivated you to join the Orange & Blue Party and run for public office?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: I got involved in SG through my association with one Mr. Samuel Miorelli, whom I attended high school with and lived with freshman and sophomore year. He told me over the summer that the Senate seat for my college (public health and health professions) was open. I wasn't taking classes at the time, so I had to wait until Fall to apply. I applied as an Independent, and with some pointers from Sam made it through the interview unscathed. My plan was simple: I'd stay Independent in the Senate and vote according to my conscience (that thing everyone talks about doing but never does). I realized very quickly that the Orange and Blue party was essentially a coalition of people that already did that, combined by the common goal of bringing down the corrupt Gator party. I joined right after I got my R&E seat.
TheRadikal: Did the candidates and/or the party change from the days on the campaign trail to the historic Fall victory, and if so, how?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: I wasn't really involved with the historic Fall victory. Like I said, I joined the Senate as a replacement Senator and was not initially involved with Orange and Blue until later on.
I can offer some commentary on how things changed, however. I think what made Fall 2008 so successful was the wonderful circumstance where everyone was united to champion the same goal. Everyone was able to ignore their differences because the Gator party was a foe worth uniting against. The division that caused the formation of Progress and Orange and Blue as separate parties came as the result of personality clashes. Essentially we had two groups of people that didn’t like one another, and so even though they had the same goal of usurping the Gator party, they weren’t willing to work together to make it happen.
The Radikal: How would you describe a typical Tuesday night Senate meeting?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: The typical Senate meeting… makes you lose at least some of your faith in humanity. JJ was almost as bad of a chair as Kelly Dale. The leadership of the Gator party regularly took action ranging from pointless to ludicrous. That anyone is willing to follow them at all is laughable. For some reason people do… I have no idea why.
Orange and Blue would fight the good fight, but far too regularly goes into a conflict expecting to lose. Far too often people complained for the sake of complaining. The chorus of nasal “NAAAAY”s from the back corner did nothing but foster a defeatist attitude. The idea of isolating the party to a single, back corner in a four corner room is in itself defeatist. We needed to work much harder at being the voice of reason and providing an example for others to follow. Far too often we just bitched; no one respects that.
The Radikal: How would you describe typical office hours, a senator's modern day relationship with Glenda & Sandy, and a typical senator's relationship with his/her Senate President?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: I didn’t really do many office hours; I tabled for my constituency requirements because it took half as long to get done. The time I spent in the office was either for Rules and Ethics or working with John Ossip on something or other. JJ was a terrible Senate President, one of the least genuine people I have ever interacted with, and almost as poor of a chair as Kelly Dale. Glenda is a nice lady, but I wonder why she stays around. Everyone in Senate speaks well of her, but few and far between are the Senators that treat her like a human being.
The Radikal: What are some of your proudest moments w/ O&B in Senate? Low points?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: My proudest moments in Senate were defeating the bills removing minority protections and gaining the support of some Gator senators. There was a small victory every time we succeeded in getting a Gator party senator to vote their conscience. It’s truly terrifying how mindlessly people will vote for things that are blatantly morally reprehensible, and so seeing someone break free from brainwashing or resist being strong-armed was inspirational. Ben Dictor gets most of the credit for getting a lot of these Senators on our side, but I’d like to think I had something to do with it as well.
Getting bylaws written for the Orange and Blue party and having elections for new officers was somewhat of a personal victory, although the main aim in doing that was to prevent the party splitting. History can tell you how well that one worked out…
That leads into my lowest point; the split between Orange and Blue and Progress. Political death. We essentially said, “Here Unite, have the election, we didn’t want it anyway.”
Another huge source of exasperation for me was Rules and Ethics. From the committee’s ridiculous refusal to subpoena Riley for the Green Means Go emails to the Senate’s repeated refusal to kick out Taxter. I still can’t believe he kept his seat. Pretty much the only time the guy came to Senate was to plead not to be kicked out. He didn’t even show up to his hearing with Rules and Ethics to defend himself.
I’m going to have to stop here in the interest of time, but rest assured I have witnessed more ridiculous occurrences during my time in Senate than I care to recall.
The Radikal: We all know you left Student Government, but no one really knows why. Could you please tell us, in your own words, why you stepped away from SG? Is the move permanent?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: I must admit I’m at a bit of a loss as to why anyone would find it a mystery why I stepped away from SG. I’m graduating this May, so I wasn’t planning on running for reelection. Everyone I’ve spoken to was aware of this. I had moral qualms about running for an office that I knew ahead of time I would have to vacate within a few months. At the time I resigned, I had only a few Senate meetings left until my term was over. The opportunity arose for me to enroll in a first responder class as a precursor to Emergency Medical Technician training (it was only offered Tuesday nights 6 to 10 PM). I would have had to delay my plans by at least a semester in order to stay in Senate for three more meetings. With nothing pressing on the table, I decided to go the First Responder route. I’ll get the chance to actually save lives instead of just talking about doing it (paraphrased from Alan Yanuck).
As for my withdrawal itself, I’m still around for anyone that wants my help. The only call I received from anyone in SG during the elections was from Sam Miorelli, who needed a candidate to slate with Orange and Blue for my college. I found him one within 20 minutes. That said, I’m not a Senator anymore, so I am taking a step back. SG is draining, and I have to decide how best to direct my energies. During my time as a Senator, I would regularly spend entire days working on nothing but SG issues. I just can’t afford to keep doing that.
During the elections, I kept to myself mainly because I never decided who I wanted to support. On a case by case basis, the Progress party had more candidates I supported, but fundamentally I was opposed to the formation of a second party to begin with. I’d been saying since well before the election that any division would be our downfall. I tried hard to stop it; I wish I’d tried harder. To beat the force that is the United Swampy Gator Party, we have to be working as a unit.
The Radikal: If O&B and Progress were to join forces, would you consider returning to SG to work with Eric Conrad & Joe Trimboli?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: I will work with anyone that wants to improve SG. I’ve known Joe Trimboli since high school and have gotten on well with Eric Conrad since I first met him. I’m not sure why you chose those two people specifically, but yeah I’ll be around Gainesville until fall 2010 and I’m willing to help out.
The Radikal: Per my promise, there will be no questions regarding contentious matters as of 11/2008-03/2009, however, some of these issues have been marked in word association.
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: Not sure what issues you’re referring to, but sounds good.
Ben Dictor: Charismatic. The Progress party was basically formed around Ben as a presidential candidate. A lot of the victories we had in the Senate during fall and early spring were due to his gaining of rapport with opposition senators.
Grasshopper: Experienced. No one’s been around longer than this guy. He makes damn good pizza rolls too.
Elizabeth Stinson: Angry. I have no idea if she is even sure what her own goals are. She shouts a lot and talks big but I’ve never really seen her do anything constructive.
Stacey Gray: Promising. One of the nicest people I’ve met. It will be a sad day for the student body if she ends up as jaded as the rest of the people in SG.
Joe Trimboli: Veteran. He’s been around SG for ages. I disagree with him on some issues and he knows that, but we get along well. That said, he works for an insurance company. You can never really trust an insurance salesman.
GMGo Emails: Pain in the ass. They basically highlight everything wrong with SG. In themselves they show how corrupt SG leadership was and is. The refusal of R&E to investigate them shows even more clearly how much Gator sucks. They were almost assuredly obtained illegally, also a problem. That said, they exposed corruption, and for that they were invaluable.
Mark McShera: Likeable. He was easy to rally around; reference his spontaneous appointment to the R&A committee. He got too hot headed at times, but he’s a good guy. I wish he’d stepped down to allow Ben to run for SG President, but then I also wish Ben had done the same thing for Mark.
Kyle Huey: Behind the scenes. Never saw much of him but apparently he does a lot.
12/11 Meeting/Scandal: I’m not great with dates, but I’m going to assume this is referring to the Orange and Blue open meeting where we called out the supposed cabal. Since then people have said the word “cabal” is too strong. Whatever. I don’t care what word you use; a large portion of the party was being lied to by our leadership and I called them out on it. I was personally the one that called them out on it, but for some reason in the weeks that followed a number of people chose to hold it against Ben Dictor, who actually had very little to do with it. That did not help the healing process.
By this point our party was tearing apart at the seams. A lot of people were pissed at one another; pretty much every person with good reason. We were headed for splitsville, and this was my last ditch effort to get our issues out into the open and keep everyone on the same page. It was a shitty situation, but we made the best of it. We got bylaws passed and new officers elected. I could go down the list and tell you the mistakes made by each person involved, but the bottom line is that we didn’t do what we needed to do to stay together. Divided we got conquered.
O&B 2009: Good luck. They’ve taken a big hit and they need to figure out where to go from here. My vote is to have O&B and Progress get back together.
Progress 2009: Best wishes. I’m happy for the grad seat wins, but I don’t like how people are viewing them. Winning eight seats means Unite got all the rest. It was a big step back from the success of the previous Fall. As far as I’m concerned, as long as Unite or Gator or whatever they call themselves are winning, everyone is losing. I hope they have more success in the future.
Keg 2009: Retarded. Leading up to the election we were concerned that Gator would form several parties to diffuse the anti-Greek vote. They didn’t go that route, so some genius decided to do it for them. Whoever’s idea it was to form this party should kick themselves in the balls/ovaries.
Unite 2009: U suck. Every time I see someone with that stupid U on a shirt or sticker I lose some respect for them. That U does not stand for Unite in my brain.
Frank Bracco: Overzealous. He’s got good ideas but has zero ability to build rapport with people that don’t already agree with him.
Charles Grapski: Activist. I don’t know anything about what the guy stands for, but I can’t help but admire anyone willing to sacrifice so much for what they believe. Whether he’s insane or just determined I don’t know.
Thomas Jardon: I don’t really know him well enough to comment.
Matt Martz: --- [Fmr. Sen. Bennett wrote in to state he in fact has not met Mr. Martz and to offer his apologies for the mix-up.
The Radikal: Any parting words?
Fmr. Sen. Joe Bennett: SG’s main problem is that it’s populated by people that realize things are corrupt, but are unwilling to take a stand against it. They join Gator/Unite because they think they can make change from the inside. Pretty soon they find they value their resume lines too much to rock the boat. As always, it’s the sheep, not the wolves, that are the real problem. Dumbasses like JJ and Fager pose no threat at all until you add 60 Senators ready to blindly vote at their command.