Column: Ethics and eating choices

Stock photo by the Spinnaker
Student Government releases three surveys to test student response to changes in campus dining. The surveys listed two vendors: Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s.

The decision to bring a Chick-fil-A to Alumni Square has been one of the most controversial topics of discussion at UNF I’ve been a part of.

Things began heating up Sept. 25, when Student Body President Carlo Fassi vetoed SB-12F-2631 Executive Branch On-Campus Dining Renovations citing a lack of explicit language. While it was commonly understood that Chick-fil-A would be replacing Sbarro and Papa John’s would be replacing Salsarita’s, the actual names of the vendors were not included in the proposed legislation. Fassi called for an emergency meeting Sept. 26 so the decision that SG made could more accurately reflect the will of students, he said.

This delay would allow for the entire legislation of UNF Student Government to hear from the students they serve.

Then there was the survey.

In an email distributed Sept. 28 to all UNF students, Fassi asked UNF students to complete a survey in order to provide them with more feedback on their initiatives. The survey asked the solitary question of: “Are you in favor of replacing Sbarro with Chick-fil-A and Salsarita’s with Papa John’s?”

However, there is a major problem with the survey design, which only made SG’s understanding the will of the students more difficult because of the contraction of the question.

In addition to being home to the nationally recognized UNF College of Arts and Science Public Opinions Research Lab, UNF’s COAS offers several classes on survey methodology of which students can take advantage. One such class is Parties, Campaigns and Elections taught by Dr. Michael Binder, which I have the pleasure of attending with several key figures in UNF SG.

When asked about the survey question, Binder said the dual question was an issue but not the only problem.

In class, Binder has on multiple occasions stressed the importance of testing only a single measure per question in order to ensure your answer actually accurately answers the question.

“The other problem is the options you are given,” Binder said. “You couldn’t just replace Sbarro with Chick-fil-A because there was an edict from on high that there needed to be a pizza place on campus.”

Meaning that the changes were always mutually inclusive.

“The option was Chick-Fil-A and Papa John’s or status quo. It wasn’t one or the other,” Binder said.

And by lumping the two changes together, while not informing the student population about the connection between them, this survey question doesn’t hold scientific weight. In fact, because the survey is only one question, if that one question is faulty, so is the entire survey.

“To use a statistic like that, so haphazardly put together, to represent the needs and wants of our student body is downright offensive,” said Paul Matthews, a UNF computer and information science junior. “I would have expected something like that from Fox News. Then again, isn’t the Red Party the controlling party?”

At the Oct. 1 emergency Senate meeting, Student Body Student Advocate Sergio Saavedra called for senators to not use their personal views to decide their vote. But isn’t that what a representative democracy is for?

“Each individual candidate clearly has their own view about this issue,” Yousra Hebeishy member of the UNF Yellow Party said, when asked about her party’s stance on the Chick-fil-A issue. “As a party, I think we can all agree on the fact that every student voice needs to be heard whether that is advocates for or against the bill.”

At UNF, we have the privilege of electing senators, some of us even lucky enough to pick the brains of candidates begging for signatures. I would hope that a SG senator would weigh a moral dilemma more than my wanting fried chicken for lunch once a week.

With UNF SG elections coming up Oct. 23 and 24, we will be asked to elect representatives to this group. Let’s hope they are in a better position to listen to UNF students and understand the difference between students’ ethics and eating choices.

Email Catherine Byerly at content@unfspinnaker.com.

For Enterprise Editor’s take go here.

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