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OPINION: Student apathy strikes again in SG elections

This article expresses the views of its author(s), separate from those of this publication. Readers are encouraged to comment or submit a Letter to the Editor to share their opinions. To submit a Letter to the Editor, follow the instructions here.

The spring 2024 Student Government elections have come and gone, and I’m not entirely sure if we’re better off because of them.

SG continued its long-standing tradition of uncontested presidential elections, with the Soar Party’s Barcal-Davidson ticket winning by default.

President-elect Michael Barcal is the vice president of health and safety for Theta Chi and soon-to-be former Treasurer for the current Grosso-Sullivan administration. Vice president-elect Ashlyn Davidson is the director of the Osprey Involvement Center.

While researching past SG administrations, I was surprised by how often uncontested elections have occurred. There have been issues with uncontested elections in the executive and legislative branches since 2018; at this point, it’s SG’s hallmark.

The cherry on top was the Senate elections, though. While thankfully not uncontested, all 20 seats were won by members of the Soar Party. Eight other non-Soar candidates ran for seats: six Unity Party members and two independents. Combined with results from the fall semester midterm elections, the Soar Party now controls the executive branch and holds all but two Senate seats.

Student Government banner
Spring 2024’s elections have cemented the Soar Party’s SG dominance. (Justin Nedrow)

To be clear, I’m not blaming the Soar Party or its members for this outcome. Simply put, they ran in the elections just like any other candidate would. I won’t even blame the Greek life organizations for packing SG with their yes-(wo)men. At a certain point, we must point at SG and the broader student body.

These elections consistently remind me how little our student body knows and cares about their SG. To their credit, SG has improved in recent years by becoming more visible through events and initiatives (Eric Andre earlier this year and the recent Boathouse renovations, for example), but more needs to be done to educate the student body on how to get involved.

Look at most students who got seats this semester: members of Greek life organizations and on-campus staff. These are people who already know how to get involved in campus issues. The average student at UNF needs to know that everyone can get involved with SG, not just those already active in the campus community.

However, the more significant issue is the student body’s apathy towards SG. From top to bottom, most UNF students don’t care about getting involved on campus. There are many reasons for this lack of on-campus involvement in general, but it seems UNF still has a ways to go in shaking its “suitcase college” reputation. 

SG’s budget last year was over $6.1 million, allocated to student-run organizations, on-campus events and services used by many students daily, such as Lend-A-Wing, the Osprey Involvement Center and the Student Wellness Complex.

There are many reasons to get involved with SG, but it’s up to the student body to care enough. As UNF students, if we want to see changes made, we must make them happen. For example, the Senate candidate that received the most votes this past election only got 401, an abysmal turnout for our nearly 17,000-strong student body. 

SG is the only campus institution wholly run by students, for students. However, SG only functions for our benefit if we put in some work, too. So go out there—run for office, vote in the next election and read our coverage of SG. I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but I’d rather hear quips about a “slow news day” than see the word “uncontested” in another article about SG elections.

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About the Contributors
Ethan Leckie
Ethan Leckie, Enterprise Editor
A Pad Thai enthusiast, NASCAR follower, and Jon Bois fanboy, Ethan Leckie is a third-year journalism major at the University of North Florida, minoring in international studies. He first began his involvement with Spinnaker as a volunteer reporter in the fall of 2021 and currently holds the position of Enterprise Editor. Ethan has always had a passion for writing and hopes to work for a newspaper one day. He enjoys watching YouTube, cooking, and visiting restaurants in his free time. If you see him on campus, ask him about his pieces - he loves to talk about them!
Justin Nedrow
Justin Nedrow, Photographer
Justin Nedrow is a Jacksonville-based photographer who started volunteering for Spinnaker in 2020 and recently graduated in spring 2023 with a degree in sports management from the University of North Florida. Taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos, Justin has helped Spinnaker reporters cover everything from sports games, protests, ordinary campus life and more. Photography is a passion project for Justin, one he started to meet new people and express himself without words.

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