UF Students Speak Out About Israel/Palestine Conflict

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Samantha Doucette,

Contributing Writer

As you approached Turlington Plaza on Thursday, you could hear the chants of clashing views.

“We’re here to show that America supports Israel. Excessive and unprovoked rocket attacks should not be tolerated,” Melanie Miller said.

“We have a special responsibility to the Palestinian people because our government is providing funding, military support and political support for Israel. We have the responsibility here to oppose what our government is doing,” Conor Munro said.

Both Miller and Munro are organizers for the rallies that were held in Turlington Plaza on Thursday and Friday. The gatherings took place in light of the recent upheaval of violence in the long-term conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Being the most recent divergence, Jewish Israelis and Muslims of Palestine started fighting again on Wednesday after Israel launched a series of airstrikes that killed Ahmed al-Jabari, the chief of military operations of Hamas, the Islamic political party that controls the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that these raids were in retaliation to continuous Palestinian rocket fire.

With current and escalating violence in the Middle East, student organizations of the University of Florida arranged rallies on behalf of the main sides of the conflict. A collaboration effort among the Jewish associations held a pro-Israel rally on Thursday and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had its pro-Palestine rally on Friday.

The conflict that has plagued Israel and all of its surrounding countries is a confusing and chaotic clash in which history and religion play a major role. There is obviously a significant divide in opinions internationally and even on the UF campus.

“We’re here to show the world that there are people at the University of Florida who care about what’s going on,” Miller, treasurer of the Torah Advancement Project, said. “We won’t take this sitting down.”

“We understand that what we’re doing here isn’t going to end the war in Gaza,” Munro, lead organizer for SDS, said. “When you look at movements in the past, movements against the Vietnam War or movements against apartheid in South Africa, those did have an impact and we need to start building a stronger movement.”

No matter who is involved, Palestinian or Israeli, the issue has hit close to home for many UF students.

“Yesterday, I was in Library West and I just couldn’t take my mind off of it. There are UF students in Israel right now, whether they’re moving there or studying abroad or visiting,” Emily Sasser, a UF graduate student, said.

While there are many more components to the structure of this issue, the question of if this conflict will end lingers in the thoughts of UF students and the international world alike.

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Reitz Renovations Keep Students in Mind

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Samantha Doucette,

Contributing Writer

Student unions are the epicenter and core of college campuses, and this is no exception when it comes to the University of Florida. According to a statement given by the vice president of Student Affairs, Dave Kratzer J. Wayne Reitz Union serves more than 20,000 people every day.

The Reitz will be getting a facelift to accommodate the lack of versatility that it previously offered. However, the approach taken by Cannon Design, the company in charge of the project, is not your typical business plan.

Cannon Design is planning the new structure strictly with students in mind. Town hall meetings that were held on Monday and Tuesday aimed to engage students with the process and get their opinion about what the new union should look like.

Throughout the week, the Reitz featured pictures of other student unions from around the nation. Students were openly allowed to write their comments and discuss their ideas with the leaders of the design team.

“I think it’s a good idea to understand what we like and what we think is going to be functional. It’s really cool that they’re actually into what we want and changing things that way,” Alison Richardson, an agricultural education major, said.

With about 100,000 square feet of new space, 50,000 square feet of renovations to existing space and a $69 million budget, the developers said that remodeling should be finished in about five years.

“Their voice is being heard. We’re taking all this information and making a balance of the things they do like versus the things they don’t like and why,” said Luz Rosado, an assistant to the leaders of the team, said.

Joe Walker is apart of the team that Cannon Design has put together to allow the new building to become a reality. He is in charge of incorporating the design elements into the construction of the structure.

“The building has been pushed beyond its capacity – forever,” Walker said. “There’s many things that don’t work well in the union, from the facilities management side and from a student engagement side, and part of it is the fundamental organization of the building.”

There are two phases to the project: the expansion phase and renovation phase. Currently being planned, Walker said that by the beginning of December a conceptual design should be approved.

By mid-January, an advanced blueprint showing the final design for the new union will be available. Demolition of the Reitz colonnade will begin in June, and construction will start in the fall of 2013, just in time for the new academic school year.

While restoration will take place for at least two years, the project’s team has made sure that the union will be open and available to students and faculty. There is a significant amount of space that they are not touching and one of the team’s main concerns is accessibility, Walker said.