11/7 Senate brief: Big budget decisions and a special guest

Expect student union renovations, continued free printing, and support for the Counseling Center.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry visited the Senate on Monday to talk about his experience as mayor, answering questions and giving advice.

The mayor, elected just over a year ago, spoke on how he went from starting his own business to becoming Chair for the Republican Party of Florida.

“You have to lay out a vision and execute it,” he instructed. “Write down your goals and look at them every day.”

As well as discussing the passage of his “Better Jacksonville” referendum, he spoke on the struggles of leading Jacksonville through Hurricane Matthew.

“There is no handbook for that,” said Curry. He said the key is having expert advisors close by, and knowing when to order evacuations. His future plans for Jacksonville include investment in infrastructure, especially downtown.  

Student Union spending

The Senate approved a request from Student Union Administration for $106,664 to be used for Ballroom renovations.

According to the request, the Ballroom AV system is outdated, and is completely broken in Ballrooms A & D, preventing the use of those facilities. The systems were installed when the building was opened in 2009, and the projectors in the rooms are also failing. A new system will cost $67, 609.

“The Student Union is a work of art,” said Senator Thomas Beaucham. “We have to protect this structure.”

According to SU Director John Simms, after seven years of laser tag, banquets and sorority recruitment, the carpets in the ballrooms must be replaced. The extensive replacement process would most likely happen during intersession and cost $39,055.

“The carpet in the ballrooms has an Applebee’s-like smell to it,” said Senator Katherine Thames.

Some senators cited lack of photo evidence as a source of uneasiness and wanted something more concrete to base their decision off of, like expert testimony.

“This is just part of the natural life cycle of a commercial-use facility,” said Simms.

SG remains pro-printing

The Senate approved a $33,600 request from the Executive Branch that will continue to provide students with 25 free on-campus prints in 2017. Chief of Staff Rachel Bryant presented the bill, saying that in spring 2016, 6,000 students (one-third of all students) utilized all their free prints. Bryant explained that the number of free prints per semester is 25 because the average college paper is five pages and the average student is enrolled in five classes.

Support for the Counseling Center

A special Ad-Hoc committee was created to find, examine and solve problems related to mental health services access on campus. Legislation proposing allocation of more money towards the Counseling Center is currently on the table. According to the counseling center, there are only 11 full-time mental health counselors to serve 16,000 students. This means the UNF counseling center is not in compliance with the recommended standards set forth by the International Association of Counseling Services, which is one counselor per 1,100 students.

Last week’s roundtable survey event addressing student concerns about the center yielded low turnout, partially because of Obama’s visit. Over half of respondents were aware that a portion of their tuition went to the UNF counseling center, which offers free comprehensive mental health care.

One multiple-choice question asked, “If you or your friend wanted to receive mental health services from the Counseling Center, what is the longest amount of time you would find appropriate to wait for the session?” Of the 287 respondents, over 64 percent indicated less than one week was appropriate. The average wait time is currently around three weeks.

The full Round Table results, released monthly, are available here.

Setting an example

In her Agency report, Director Erin Mitts announced that other colleges like FSCJ have been taking interest in the Lend-A-Wing pantry, and may build similar programs at their own schools. She also shared that they are increasing their hours to meet the growing needs of students. On Dec. 1, the pantry will be holding a fundraiser from 5 p.m- 9 p.m. at Chipotle in Town Center.

Also Noteworthy

Senators discussed the Fall 2016 Elections results, with several concluding that voter turnout was too low to conclusively write legislation. The poll asking students how they felt about concealed carry on campus was a topic of discussion, with several senators calling for increased voter education on the issue as well as further discussion in committee meetings. The campus carry issue will not go away anytime soon, as the NRA plans to continue lobbying in the Florida House and Senate until legislation is passed.  

The senate also discussed the results of the question asking students how they felt about extended use of Bright Futures scholarships.

“It’s a clear consensus that a majority of students want to see Bright Futures over summer semester,” said Senator Christopher Jordan.

Judicial Decisions are now available on SG’s website. Although they are public record, previously they were available by request. The last Senate meeting of the semester is Monday,  November 21 at 6:30 p.m in the Senate chambers.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact editor@unfspinnaker.com.

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