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UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

Does anybody care that there hasn’t been an SG election this year?

Once again, there weren’t Student Government elections held this year. Elections were supposed to take place the week of March 3, but an election requires candidates, competition, and interest – all of which were lacking. Only 19 of the 26 available senate seats were filled.

This semester, no I Voted stickers were given out because of no elections, something Joseph Turner has called rather undemocratic. Photo by Facebook.
This semester, no I Voted stickers were given out.
Photo courtesy Facebook.

The SG president also ran unopposed this year. This makes the second year in a row without a presidential election.

Last year, a candidate competing for the presidency was disqualified for not filling out the paperwork correctly. Joseph Turner, the next student body president, calls the uncontested presidential election rather undemocratic. In fall 2009, SG elections were canceled due to lack of candidate interest.

Last year, Osprey Voice asked “What do you think the processes to become a member of UNF’s Student Government Senate are?” Almost a third of respondents said “no idea.” If students don’t know how to get into SG, they probably aren’t aware of the benefits that comes with it.

An SG president gets paid 40 hours a week. They receive full tuition for 12 credit hours during the fall and spring semesters. Six credit hours during summer are also covered (let’s consider even a lot of scholarships don’t cover summer credits). They receive a cell phone stipend. I can’t think of anything closer to a broke college kid’s dream. Most importantly: an SG president receives a Board of Trustees Parking Pass. On our campus, that’s gold. But it isn’t just presidents with benefits. Senators who are in good academic standing and finish up a year as a senator receive $700 in scholarship.

Aaron Anderson worked in SG for almost a year. He left SG to commit more time to his internship at St John’s Riverkeeper, an organization striving towards healthy and clean water in the St. Johns River. “There is a lack of knowledge as to what power Student Government has,” Anderson said. “If there was more knowledge about that, there would be more interest, I think.”

Student Government Director of Communications has said the lack of elections has allowed SG to "conveniently focus solely on initiatives." Back in 2012, one of those initiatives was the ropes course at the entrance of campus. Photo by Keri Weiland.
Student Government Director of Communications has said the lack of elections has allowed SG to “conveniently focus solely on initiatives.” Back in 2012, one of those initiatives was the ropes course at the entrance of campus. Photo by Keri Weiland.

The power Anderson is referring to is the $4.47 million budget SG decides how to allocate. These millions come from the Activity and Service fee students pay. This is money you slay for, beg your parents for, or whatever other methods you use to acquire the green. This allocation is done with little oversight from faculty, Anderson said. That’s power worth recognizing. Carlo Fassi, student body president, also said running for SG shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Despite this, SG still seems to be rotating the same people over and over again. While there are three parties registered, only the red party has active SG members; the only other members are independent.

Anderson said he thinks there may be candidates who became part of a party because it’s viewed as they way to get into SG, especially around election time. “If you jump on that wagon and you’re in line with what their platform is, there is a good chance they are going to vote for you,” Anderson said. Anderson also said parties meet to discuss aspects of SG — meetings you wouldn’t be privy to if you’re a non-party member. This could create pressure to join a party, yet there is only one party to join.

Lack of interest in SG may come from what students think they’re getting out of their tuition dollars. “There are students that come to college just to get the piece of paper,” Anderson said. “More so than in the past when you go to school because you wanted to learn or be part of a community.” This is especially true at a school like UNF, a school primarily thought of as a commuter school. The campus seems dead on Fridays and weekends. Students often walk from class to class buried in their cell phones. By doing this, they miss signs hung up trying to encourage student involvement.

SG can only do so much outreach, Fassi said.  The rest is on us. We should care about our campus, not just when there’s awesome concerns. We should care about how our money is being spent. There should be a platform, like elections, for us to speak up. UNF isn’t just a pretty campus for us to go to class to. It’s a place with potential to shape ourselves.

Working in the Student Union, I often come across students looking for SG. Sometimes, they refer to it as “Student Government” and other times it’s dubbed “the place with free scantrons.” I love free scantrons, especially when it’s the morning of an exam and you (of course) happen to forget your wallet. But SG should also be a voice for students. I like choices. I want to be able to vote for the candidate whose goals and values align with mine. Isn’t that what having a voice is? Students deserve that vote (and free scantrons in the process).

Email Noor Ashouri at [email protected]

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