Student Government approved the use of $25,000 in leftover student fees to build a veterans’ memorial park on campus.
Student Body President Carlo Fassi said the startup budget is coming from the Student Union Fund balance, a fund mostly used for SU facility repairs, equipment and renovations.
SG Director of Communications Ryan Traher said the park is appropriate because UNF has the second largest student-to-veteran ratio in the state, after the University of West Florida.
G.I. Jobs magazine has named UNF one of the nation’s most military-friendly schools for five consecutive years.
“I think it’s something students want, I just don’t think it’s something most students want,” SG Senator Louis Reich said.
Reich was one of two senators who opposed the bill for the park. Reich said he thinks there should be a veterans’ memorial, but not before or in lieu of the projects student voted for as priorities.
SG conducted a ‘Your Choice, Your Voice’ survey which asked students to pick their top 10 out of 17 different initiatives. Students voted a park as the 14th priority.
The top three initiatives got over 400 votes each and a veterans’ memorial park got 120 votes.
Engineering Junior Stephen Martin said he believes a park is more fit for a municipal area than a campus.
Traher said if students disagree with SG’s choices, they should come speak at senate meetings or to a senator.
Fassi said the $25,000 is to get the project moving. The rest will be raised in donations.
Ray Wikstrom, Director of Military Veterans Resource Center, said the park is the “brainchild of Carlo Fassi”. Fassi said he got the idea from Florida Gulf Coast University’s recently-built Veterans Pavilion.
According to FGCU’s Community Relations and Marketing website, their SG spent $241,000 on the Veterans Pavillion.
Traher said $25,000 is not a lot of money compared to the amount in the Fund Balance, which Fassi said was in the hundreds of thousands.
“When you have money sitting there,” Fassi said, “it’s important to show students that we’re putting it to good use.”
Cyra Bunag, an undecided freshman, said, “It’s good to honor and commemorate the people that died, but putting it at the university is not the best idea.”
Vice Chairman of the Budget and Allocations Committee Collin Waychoff, who is the Senate Sponsor for the bill, said it means a lot to him personally because many of his family members are veterans.
“I will 100 percent put my support behind anything that honors Veterans. I feel that this is something that needs to be done,” Waychoff said.
Waychoff said he wants the park to be a usable space as well as a memorial.
“We want an intimate setting,” Fassi said. “A space students can go to relax while also remembering why it’s there.”
The Military Veterans and Resource Center plans to request donations from the Alumni Association, veterans’ associations around Jacksonville, alumni veterans, corporate donors, and possibly the city of Jacksonville, Wikstrom said.
He said Sauer Inc. has already given $15,000 to the project.
The park will be between Petway Hall and the Coxwell amphitheatre. It is still being designed and the final cost and completion date will be announced when they know more about it, Fassi said.
The bill must be approved by the Auxiliary Oversight Committee and then sent to the president before it is finalized. The Auxiliary Oversight Committee meets next on Oct. 2.
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