The current president of the University of Florida Student Body is facing a potential impeachment crisis because of his agreement to pay Donald Trump Jr. $50,000 for a speech he gave on October 10, 2019 at the university campus. Michael Murphy negotiated with a Trump staffer who was working on the 2020 campaign, to have the president’s son and Kimberly Guilfoyle (his son’s girlfriend and adviser to the president) speak at the university in Gainesville last month.
Many University of Florida students protested the event and were outraged to later find that public student funds were used to pay for the duo to come and talk. Student body senators were flooded with complaints from students who were upset that their moneys were being used to fund the Trump 2020 election campaign without their consent. Reacting to the outcry, senators voted on a resolution this past Tuesday for articles of impeachment against the student body president.
The resolution for impeachment was signed by over 100 students and alumni demanding his ousting. The key issue centers on whether the event was a campaign stop or simply a regular speaking engagement. Florida laws says public funds cannot be used to support campaign activities. While it is clear neither Donald Trump Jr. nor his girlfriend are running for office, the waters are muddled because the event was coordinated with campaign staffer Caroline Wren, who is a national finance consultant for Trump Victory (a fundraising committee for the president’s campaign).
Conservatives are quick to respond that the outcry from students are simply “Never-Trumpers” who are upset at the speaker’s presence and not that the fee for the speech was supporting the re-election of Trump. In fact, state Republicans are rallying behind Michael Murphy, as is former Governor and current U.S. Senator Rick Scott. By Thursday, the Republican Party of Florida had advertised a plea through the slogan “Stand with UF’s Student Body President” on its website. Interestingly, it links to a fundraising page for the GOP.
The site reads, “It’s completely outrageous that the UF student president is facing impeachment for bringing Donald Trump Jr. to speak on campus,” the petition page reads. “If it was Chelsea Clinton, they’d be praising him. Enough is enough!” Senator Scott tweeted that same day saying calls for Murphy’s impeachment were because of a “pervasive trend" to quiet conservative voices on college campuses.
Whatever the decision, no one can doubt that what is happening at the University of Florida is indicative of the greater divide in politics throughout the country. One would be remiss not to mention that, in Murphy’s defense, the UF administration has cleared him of any wrongdoing with release of a statement confirming the agreement for the presenters was reviewed before and after the event and “determined to be compliant with all applicable laws, policies and processes.” Indeed, what would be the difference if Donald Trump Jr. took the $50,000 he received and simply donated it to his father’s re-election campaign? Whether you support Donald Trump for president or not, has the distaste for the man grown so great to attack his supporters no matter the cost? Or is Murphy being used as a rallying cry to raise more funds for the GOP?