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Column: On why I am the 20 percent

I just love the executive branch, OK?

Stock Photo by Catherine Byerly
Student Government controls the purse that directly affects UNF students.

On which other branch can we students rely to write legislation that delegates money from our past and present classmates specifically to enhance our campus dining experience?

And on which other branch can we rely to not fully disclose in a public setting the true intent of a piece of legislation?

Good lookin’ out, executive branch.

While the newness of Student Government’s ability to use the fees we have to pay in order for our classes to count mixes well with that 1972 bottle of house wine, the importance of its ability to allocate responsibly remains extant.

So, it shocks me that the rhetoric of opposition to the bill to yank out Sbarro in Alumni Square to plop in a Chick-fil-A and gut Salsarita’s in the Student Union food court to push in a Papa John’s revolves mostly around CEOs’ politics and healthy eating.

Lest we forget the renovations for both areas totals nearly $1 million.

But with the responsibility to control such a large amount of money should come the foresight to make sure potential bumps stay latent.

However, those bumps became malignant.

And I pin that on the bill’s proposer, our Student Body President Carlo Fassi.

He acknowledged the concern I have with the original bill’s wording at the Oct. 1 emergency Senate meeting and said he took full responsibility for it.

In the original bill, Fassi only mentioned the price tags for the areas in which the renovations will take place and failed to detail which specific vendors would occupy the renovated areas.

But the original bill should not have lacked the names of the specific vendors. Spinnaker News reported in August and September about the renovations brandishing Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s monikers.

Thanks to public records laws, Fassi sent Spinnaker News the plans his request would contain in August, including Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s names, so we’ve been able to report on it freely.

But I guess Fassi hoped the rest of UNF, including the Senate, would cover its eyes to this information and pretend our organization did not make that information available to them.

Why else would he shoot a vague answer at one of the senators who asked him at the Aug. 20 Senate meeting how far along the plans to bring Chick-fil-A to campus were?

Fassi simply said he submitted a special request Aug.17 “for campus dining.”

C’mon, folks, even the sole banana pepper in a box of Papa John’s pizza could see his response’s clear vagueness.

So of course confusion arose over the bill’s intention. And our executive had to resort to vetoing the bill he brought to the Senate and called for an emergency meeting, so the Senate could revote.

All the extra steps Student Government took because the original bill lacked proper wording make me nervous about how SG will handle future expenses.

Of course, we’re all students, so I expect those involved in SG — or any student organization — to make minor mistakes. And I’m very forgiving.

But through all the fuss about money going to Chick-fil-A, I’ve yet to hear any student — senator or otherwise — oppose the campus dining renovations because of Fassi’s oversight.

And that’s why I voted “No” to the survey he sent to the student body Sept. 28, asking a simple question that didn’t account for different opinions, as my colleague Catherine Byerly points out in her column.

I read Fassi’s survey question as: “Because I left the specifics of the bill intentionally opaque, do you think it’s cool if we still spend this much money on renovations?”

My answer shouldn’t surprise anyone.

For me, that survey served as a job performance review on Fassi’s presidency thus far.

And while the Senate approved the original and amended bills, my opposition to the change in campus dining broods on Fassi’s poor bill-writing skills.

And I expect our president to not flip-flop on issues. So I admire Fassi’s will to satisfy the initiative, even if I don’t agree with it and even though the Senate faced student opposition.

But I also expect our president to write clear and precise proposals that affect the student body. And I expect our president to be open and transparent at public meetings and respond to senators’ questions to his best ability.

So regardless of all the political reasons others feel should repel from Chick-fil-A existing on campus — and regardless of the inability for future students to grab burritos from Salsarita’s — I’m a part of the 20 percent of students that consistently voted against the changes because of my general distrust of the executive branch on this initiative.

With more than $900,000 of student money to spend, I would’ve liked to see the Senate deny bringing the vendors to campus at that cost. Instead, I would’ve like to see the Senate invest that much money on initiatives that directly impact the whole, you know, education portion of attending a university.

Call me scholastic, but if the Senate invested that special request money to a more academic initiative, such as extending Library hours or significantly increasing the number of free prints, it would have more directly impacted students than installing two restaurants they can choose whether or not to patronize.

And I think the president should see to it that funding academic initiatives — since academics is the primary reason for attending a university — would benefit students in longer-term ways than satiating their salty-waffle-fries needs will.

And hey, at least I didn’t resurrect the parking argument.

Email Ryan Thompson at [email protected].

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