UPDATE- 1:04 AM EST 2-15-2016
Accusations of corruption in student government at the University of Florida are being put out in the open by a prominent UF student activist who previously helped to perpetuate a notorious secret society on campus.
Sabrina Philipp, a senior at UF was featured in a video detailing her experiences as a leading member of the “system”, a secret organization that helps Greek affiliated students move up in student government and influences actions taken by it.
The “system” is connected to the Florida Blue Key, a prestigious leadership honorary group that operates as a secret society that helps direct student government from the shadows, according to some students.
The UF student newspapers published a detailed expose into the way Florida Blue Key operates in 2012.
“For students aspiring to hold public office one day, the path seems simple.
Go to UF. Get involved in Student Government. Get tapped to join Florida Blue Key. Make the right connections.
Even students who have no taste for politics yearn to join the prestigious honor society that boasts alumni like former senator and Gov. Bob Graham and current U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.”
According to Not My System, the group that published Philipp’s video on Facebook, “the system” is made up of three different blocs: a political bloc, social bloc, and third bloc.
“Each is led by a bloc leader that represents the interests of various Greek organizations, communicated to them through their house leaders,” Not My System explains on its FB page. “Through massive Greek mobilization and voter suppression, the System has been able to control Student Government at the University of Florida for decades. This System is damaging to everyone involved except for its elite. Students are not given the opportunity to pursue positions based on their merit, but rather must rest on their laurels.”
Despite attempts to expose the “system” in recent years, many have still denied its very existence.
But Philipp’s video could prove to be an important moment at UF.
This all comes on the eve of student government elections taking place this week in Gainesville, with the next Student Body President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and 50 senators up for election.
The “system” has drawn comparisons to “The Machine” at the University of Alabama and other secret student organizations that sometimes try to influence college politics.
Have a tip about the way “the system” works at the University of Florida? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the AuthorRich Robinson is the CEO and publisher of Rise News. He is also a journalist and a native of Miami. Robinson graduated from the University of Alabama and can be followed on Twitter @RichRobMiami.
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UPDATED- May 26, 5:25 PM EST
BREAKING- Father Pedro Corces has been asked to step down as the pastor of St. Rose of Lima according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Miami.
The principal of the school Sister Bernadette Keane has also been replaced by a Archdiocese official for the reminder of the school year
The announcements came in a letter emailed to parents at St. Rose on Thursday afternoon.
In it, Archbishop Thomas Wenski announced that he has asked for Father Pedro Corces to step down as pastor of St. Rose of Lima in an effort to fix the “fractured” spirit and unity at the church and its associated school after a group of parents and a private investigator published a 129 dossier of information filled with allegations against Father Corces.
This is developing and this story will be updated.
Read the full statement from Archbishop Thomas Wenski:
A group of concerned parents at St. Rose Of Lima School in Miami Shores have accused their parish priest, Father Pedro Corces, of putting children at the school in “grave danger” after he allegedly hired a man as a school maintenance worker who was once arrested on prostitution charges.
That allegation and many others were made in a 129 page “dossier” of information prepared by a group of parents at the school organized under the name of Christifidelis @ Saint Rose of Lima Miami Shores.
The group also paid a private investigator over $3,500 to surveil Father Corces to help them build a case against him. Once they could no longer afford the investigator’s services, parents took to surveilling Father Corces on their own.
The document was leaked to RISE NEWS on Friday afternoon and it alleges that Father Corces is in a relationship with a school maintenance worker named Juan Alberto Cardenas.
The group and the private investigator both assert that Cardenas has been arrested on three separate occasions including in 2000 after he allegedly offered oral sex to an undercover police officer for $15.
The private investigator said that he got a hold of Cardenas’ date of birth and then matched his mugshot photos to those found on social media and through surveillance to ensure it was the same person.
Cardenas was also arrested in 2002 on a charge of uttering forged bills and in 2004 for making false insurance claims.
The document also alleges that Father Corces takes frequent expensive vacations, sometimes with Cardenas and that he often spends the night at Cardenas’ condo where he pays for his employee’s cable bill.
Christifidelis is a group of “faithful Catholics” according to group spokesperson Rosa Armesto.
Most of them have children at the school and they take the name of their group from a similar effort of unrelated activists who worked to uncover what they called a “homosexual super culture” in the Archdiocese of Miami in 2005.
The original Christifidelis came to national prominence after Gawker published their findings in 2011.
Many of the allegations Christifidelis leveled at Father Corces surround his sexuality and some of the document can read as being anti-gay.
RISE NEWS has only decided to report on some of the allegations after confirming the group’s findings with the private investigator involved in the investigation.
Father Corces first came under scrutiny from some members of the St. Rose community after the shock announcement in January that the nuns that have run the school since 1981 were being asked to leave. Parents rebelled and demanded answers but received little in the way of clarification.
While publicly supporting the Archdiocese’s line that they had been asked to withdraw from St. Rose by the Motherhouse in Pennsylvania due to the declining supply of sisters in the United States, some of the nuns were privately telling parents that Father Corces had pushed them out.
As a result, the community became divided between the side of the nuns and that of the parish priest.
Some even feel that Father Corces lied to them about the situation and that he tried to stop parents from talking about it.
“There is undeniably a reign of intimidation from Fr. Pedro Corces,” Armesto said in a phone interview.
The Hunt For Answers
Christifidelis took serious actions in order to build their case about Father Corces.
Some of the information was gathered when a family that lives next to the rectory allowed cameras to be placed in rooms in their house to surveil activities there.
From that source and others, the group was able to determine that many people were coming and going into the rectory at all hours of the night, raising suspicions about who actually lives there.
“We’ve seen people over there who are not priests,” the man who owns the home next to the rectory said in an interview. He gave his name but asked for it not to be published after his wife objected. “A lot of weird things have been going on. It doesn’t look right.”
Other neighbors didn’t want to talk about the situation but one said that he hadn’t really noticed anything out of the ordinary since Father Corces had moved there a few years ago.
But according to the family that allowed their house to become a surveillance outpost, things are different.
“We used to have a little community thing for all of us that lived around the lake. We always had a Christmas get together. But since this guy [Father Corces] came here, things changed.”
Christifidelis also searched the trash left outside of the rectory on numerous occasions, where it claimed to find a tax form for a massage business that Cardenas runs.
“The fact that such form was filled in the rectory also suggests a closer relationship between Father Pedro and Alberto Cardenas than the usual boss‐subordinate relationship,” Christifidelis wrote in the report. “It also raises the question as to whether Father Pedro provides tax or financial advice of some type.”
A high-ranking school official who wished to remain anonymous due to concerns over potential retribution said that she became frustrated after discovering that there was no contact information on record for the maintenance workers.
She also said that it was widely known that three of the maintenance workers including Cardenas have keys to the rectory, which was not standard practice before the new workers were hired.
Cardenas was hired in 2015 as a worker at the school according to Christifidelis, about a year and a half after Father Corces fired a “significant portion” of the longstanding maintenance staff.
The firings came around Christmas of 2014 and were a surprise to many in the community.
Little information about the maintenance staff can be found on the school’s website.
In fact, on the “Staff Pictures 2016” page, four of the maintenance staff are the only people without pictures included. Cardenas’ name is not even on the page.
The maintenance staff has seemed to take a more low-key role in the life of the school since Father Corces fired most of them in 2014.
The new crew, including Cardenas has never appeared in the St. Rose yearbook for example, one of the few moments when a parent can physically see all the people who work around their children.
But a review of St. Rose yearbooks going back to 2008 shows that the maintenance staff were always included in the staff pictures section except for in 2015 and 2016.
Armesto, the Christifidelis spokesperson claimed that she saw a pre published version of the 2016 yearbook and that in it were the names of the maintenance workers without pictures. However, the final published version of the book does not include the names or pictures of the workers.
A group of parents at the school had hoped to hold a rosary prayer session before the 9 AM Mass on May 22 in order to pray for the “well-being of the parish”. It happened to also be the 28th anniversary of Father Corces’ ordination into the priesthood.
However they were not allowed to pray after being told by a priest that they needed to clear any sort of demonstration with the Archbishop.
When reached for comment via phone, Archdiocese spokesperson Mary Ross Agosta started laughing and said “Oh, you again,” to a RISE NEWS reporter.
When asked about the contents of the Christifidelis report, Ross Agosta refused to talk about them.
Ross Agosta then said that she had nothing to say and hung up the phone.
RISE NEWS has been unable to speak to Father Corces or Alberto Cardenas.
UPDATE #1- The Broward Palm Beach New Times is reporting that the Archdiocese of Miami has “initiated” an “investigation in accordance with canon law” into the accusations made against Father Corces.
UPDATE #2- St. Rose school officials sent home a letter to parents on Tuesday afternoon announcing that some “lay employees”- presumably some of the maintenance men have been placed on administrative leave by Archbishop Wenski pending an ongoing investigation into the allegations.
Here is the text of the full letter sent home to parents:
“Allegations of misconduct at St. Rose of Lima Parish not involving minors were brought to Archbishop Thomas Wenski last week. The Archbishop takes the allegations seriously. In accordance with canon law and Archdiocesan policies, the Archbishop immediately initiated an investigation that is ongoing. At the present time Father Corces is attending a previously scheduled retreat. The lay employees in question have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Read The Full Report.
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What’s News In This Story?
–State Senator Daphne Campbell lied about her mother being ill in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Her mother had been dead for at least a year by that time.
–RISE NEWS was the first to expose text messages Campbell sent to a FPL lobbyist one day after Hurricane Irma impacted South Florida.
–The messages revealed that Campbell tried to use her status as a State Senator to get FPL to turn on electricity at her home.
–Her reasoning for the abuse of power? She had a sick mother at home who needed electricity to run an oxygen machine.
–Campbell texted: “Can someone helps [sic] me with the power. I do have a sick person in my house and she’s using oxygen. The address is… [address redacted]. Same than my children’s house…[address redacted]. Thanks Senator Campbell.”
–The problem (one of many with that rationale) is that Campbell’s mother was dead at the time, according to Campbell’s own words.
–Campbell was caught by the Miami New Times in the latest lie after reporter Jerry Iannelli came across a Youtube video from 2016, where Campbell talked about her dead mother.
–“My father and my mother died,” she says around the 2:20 mark of a video posted to Youtube in 2016.
-A Campbell staffer tried to defend his boss to the New Times by saying that she wasn’t actually talking about her biological mother. “Instead, Campbell was referring to a long-standing family friend whom she allegedly refers to as ‘mom.'” The staffer did confirm that Campbell’s biological mother was dead.
–Campbell called the original RISE NEWS report “fake news”. About that…
——Here’s Something Completely Different: ——
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Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.Post Views: 570
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By John Massey
The highlight of the party’s platform is the desire to hold a referendum on Hong Kong’s autonomy prior to 2047. It is a revolutionary desire in the eyes of the Chinese government and many pro Chinese political figures in Hong Kong.
When RISE NEWS learned about the creation of Demosistō, we reached out to them in order to share their story.
After all, they are some of the most politically influential millennials that the world has seen.
She is also a second year student at Hong Kong Baptist University, studying politics.
Chow first became involved in Hong Kong politics in 2012, after being exposed to Scholarism via Facebook.
The group was founded in opposition to the highly controversial Moral and National Education Curriculum, which was claimed by opponents to be pro Communist Party of China (CPC) brainwashing.
One of the more compelling pieces of evidence to this claim is one of the key seven priorities of the curriculum being “National Identity“, which is to say an identity indistinct from that of mainland China.
Scholarism, and its allied groups were ultimately successful in defeating the Moral and National Education Curriculum, but also in demonstrating that a grassroots movement of millennials in Hong Kong can make political change.
However, Scholarism’s next big outing, as well as other liberal organizations, proved even larger than the opposition to the Moral and National Education Curriculum.
The Umbrella Movement was a mass protest spanning several months in Hong Kong. Thousands of protesters gathered in opposition to constitutional reform imposed by the National People’s Congress (NPCSC). These reforms give a nominating committee, with purportedly strong ties to the CPC, the authority to pre-select a handful of candidates prior to a territory wide election.
The “suffrage” presented by Beijing outraged a tremendous number of Hong Kongers, and in particular, large swaths of young people, many of whom were in secondary school.
In particular the student group Scholarism was the centerpiece of what little international media attention was put on the Umbrella Movement. It was largely out of the ranks of Scholarism that Demosistō emerged.
However, size of opposition did not prove decisive in the Umbrella Movement, as the ultimate objective of the protesters was thwarted.
When asked if the three month event was a failure, Chow told RISE in a Skype interview;
“in terms of political goals, i think it was a failure, but it also had lots of influence on people’s minds.”
Indeed, there is something to be said of the conditions being created in which a handful of university students can exercise a considerable degree of influence in politics.
To those familiar with the Occupy Movement in the United States, the idea of using the political capital gained through the Umbrella Movement to work within a broken system may seem strange or counter intuitive.
“It is difficult to fight some things through the Parliament, or through the Legislative Council, and while I can understand these kinds of feelings, because in our legislative council now half of our council is not democratically elected, because of the Functional Constituency,” Chow said. “I still believe we can enter the Legislative Council, we can do something… because our aim is to not just work within the Council.
“Through the election we want to promote our ideas to more people. What we have to do is connect the Legislative Council and the Civil Society outside.”
The intentions of Demosistō and other liberal actors within Hong Kong has not gone unnoticed.
Earlier this year, Chow brought attention to the abduction of a man selling books that criticized the Communist party, or were otherwise banned in Mainland China.
Chow has also had the shadow of the CPC come upon her as well.
Limits on withdrawals were placed on her bank account which was intended to be used to accept donations on behalf of Demosistō, as they have thus far been unable to register as a company.
This has resulted in Demosistō relying on crowdfunding via Paypal.
We are currently experiencing sudden issues concerning Agnes Chow's bank account. Latest updates at: https://t.co/AvtNfQV80u
— Demosistō 香港眾志 (@demosisto) April 11, 2016
Chow was more concerned with Demosistō’s hurdles in registering as a company. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t like this very much.
” In Hong Kong we do not have the legislation for political parties,” Chow said. “They all have to register as a company instead.”
These financial problems likely do not improve Demosistō’s opinion of the Hong Kong establishment.
” Of course the government and the companies will not support us, because we are opposing the government, and the business sectors are also always standing on the government’s side,” Chow said. “They have to cooperate with the Chinese side.”
Demosistō then will be relying on their proven ability to utilize grassroots tactics to gain wins in the Legislative Council, especially students, but not exclusively.
“We have involved a professor teaching in one of the arts schools… We believe that the new political party, because it’s not a student’ s organization anymore, and it’s important for us to involve more people from the older generations.”
She also notes that for future plans, the party will:
“Try to recruit them [volunteers], through our website, and different forums, and public locations we will try to send our message to Hong Kong People, and hope that they can join us later on.”
Spreading the message of a referendum on Hong Kong’s self determination by 2047, the year the Sino-British Joint Declaration expires, is the clear center piece of Demosistō’s platform, but is far from the only position taken.
Scholarism was deemed ill fitting for elevation to Demosistō’s status as a political party in part due to a lack of political cohesion, according to Chow.
Demosistō heavily invests in individualist language to describe their proposed policies, broken down into the ” Four Selves” :Self Initiating, Self Standing, Self Autonomy, and finally Self Determination. These are intended as steps over a ten year period.
” Self Determination does not mean dissolution of the Social Problems in Hong Kong”
” Even after self determination we still have lots of: education problems, housing problems, property hegemony, etc,” Chow said. “We still have a lot of problems to solve before the self determination of Hong Kong. Resources such as food and water heavily rely on the supply of the mainland China. No matter if it was an independent country or a city under a country, it has to have self sufficiency.”
Not only does Demosistō insist on self sufficiency for the city of Hong Kong, but also an advancement of Hong Kong’s unique identity.
” It is also important to build up the identity of Hong Kong People, so we propose a Hong Kong History subject be implemented,” Chow said in the interview. “Hong Kong people do not really know much about Hong Kong history; in our education system there are only World History and Chinese History.”
This idea of an independent Hong Kong identity seems pivotal in the dispute between Hong Kong and Beijing. As previously noted, establishing a national identity was one of the objectives of the Moral and National Education Curriculum.
Beijing specifically does not want there to be any distinction between China and Hong Kong, and may be trying to begin laying the groundwork for 2047, and end this “salutary neglect” like relationship.
Chow concluded our chat by telling us about her vision of Hong Kong’s identity, saying;
“For me, the identity of Hong Kong people, or the characteristic of Hong Kong, is diversity. We have lots of different kinds of people, who believe in different core values, who came from different countries, who are different races, etc. It’s very important to emphasize the diversity, and not to exclude the others who disagree with us.”
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.
Cover Photo Credit: Agnes Chow Ting/ FacebookPost Views: 591
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