The judicial branch of UCF’s Student Government Association held its first ever judicial review hearing Friday morning to evaluate the passing of a bill that banned political parties.
Political parties are “a formally constituted political group that contests elections and attempts to form or take part in a government and shares a common platform,” as defined in legislation passed during the 50th session of the senate.
UCF SGA Sen. John Tuley, who represents the College of Arts and Humanities, started drafting the bill during summer to update the Election Statutes with violation tiers and consequences. The two final parts of the bill discuss banning political parties.
Chief Justice Michael Soviak, who pulled the bill for judicial review, remained unconvinced of the bill's constitutionality throughout the hearing. He argued that political parties represent an educational environment for the "real world."
“What we’re doing is we’re hiding people from the reality of what politics is and what the world is,” Soviak said. “I don’t think that’s what colleges are meant to do.”
Soviak called the ban on political parties an “infringement of students’ rights.”
The former political party that took over SGA, called Black and Gold, inspired a 27-5 majority vote to ban parties.
The Black and Gold party took hold of the senate during the 48th session. The number of people in the party was unknown due to a lack of transparency in the party's recruitment methods.
Tuley, a 19-year-old junior legal studies and writing and rhetoric double major, said during the Black and Gold period, the speaker of the senate could put any person they wanted on the party at any time.
“They would table together and run together and essentially there was no turnover within student body senate," Tuley said.
Running with parties or tickets, Tuley argued, was essential to getting elected into SGA positions.
When senators decide to seek election by running together, they run on a ticket, according to the SGA Election Statutes. The involved candidates will table together, share platform points and encourage students to vote for everyone on the same ticket.
“If you were put on the Black and Gold ticket, you won,” Tuley said.
Despite running on a ticket himself, Tuley stated during the hearing that parties and tickets provide an unfair advantage and makes it difficult for individuals interested in student leadership to get involved.
Chief Judicial Adviser Kyler Gray attended the hearing to provide statutory clarifications and to make sure the hearing remained civil.
The hearing, held in the Student Union and open to the public, also had members of the Student Government Leadership Committee and the senate in attendance.
Gray said SGA faced internal battles between the executive and legislative branches during the Black and Gold period. He said conflicts happened frequently and made it hard for the student government to function.
After the hearing, Gray said although political parties hinder the educational environment of SGA, he does agree with Soviak that the ban potentially violates students’ First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.
The hearing concluded with a final statement from Tuley, who urged the judicial council to not set a precedent that SGA does not care about students. Soviak responded by continuing his argument that the ban infringed in students' rights.
“I think [SGA] serves an education benefit to the students that is being infringed currently by our system,” Tuley said after the hearing concluded.
The judicial council took time to review the case after the meeting. An official opinion and decision will be released by Soviak on Thursday through email to the involved parties.