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Opinion: The real UNF Traditions

The UNF Traditions released by the Traditions Project masks the real campus culture of commuters, apathetic students, and UF rejects.
The UNF Traditions released by the Traditions Project mask the real campus culture of commuters, apathetic students, and UF rejects.

In yet another attempt to make University of North Florida something it’s not, the school released a list of 12 UNF traditions this past Spring. The Traditions Project spent a year and $5,000 to compile a list of “traditions” that attempts to, but does not accurately represent student culture on campus. Not to completely discredit the work a team of professionals spent months on, but seriously?

You probably already know about these traditions – not because you attended the grand unveiling event – but because the university published it on UNF’s homepage. Despite apathetic student response (ask some students on campus – they either don’t know of or don’t agree with the traditions) the university is still pushing the idea.

The university seems to have missed a very important point – a tradition is not something you can just compose into a list and announce at a party. Tradition is something that is practiced, repeated, and integrated into the life of a university. You cannot declare a tradition into being, and that’s why there’s so much apathy to UNF’s list and their motives in compiling it.

As anyone who has been on campus for a few months can tell, UNF is taking serious steps to shed its commuter campus reputation. But after being here for a year and then some, I can sincerely report that I’m over it. I am over my school striving and stressing about encapsulating the glorified “college experience.”

I chose to come to UNF because of the fact that it’s not like UF or FSU. It’s small and has the programs I want. I’ve been happier here than I ever would have been anywhere else. Other people come here because it’s close to home, or because they didn’t get into UF. Even if their reasons are less than ideal, it doesn’t make them – or the school – any less reputable. That is the real UNF – a historically commuter campus that now offers the opportunity of variety and choice to its students.

It is very possible for students to get a somewhat traditional college experience if they want it. It is also very possible for non-traditional students to get degrees quickly. And it’s also possible for students to have lives outside of the university, because Jacksonville is more than UNF – and thank God for it!

So yes. UNF is not the pillar of tradition when compared to other, older universities – we aren’t even 50 years old. But we have a set of traditions and values that are all our own, and it’s time to recognize the real UNF in all its comfortable, crummy, commuter glory.

These are the real 12 traditions you need to know.

1. Hating the swoop. The infamous “swoop” is among the first things you learn about the school. And by learn I mean one of the first things you are forced to do against your will. At your tour, orientation, and various uncomfortable occasions after that, someone will inevitably yell “Who are we!?” and you’ll look around before half-heartedly saying “Ospreys.” That someone will taunt you with “What do we do?” and you’ll try to be ironic when you yell “SWOOP” and cross your arms. The tradition is not in the action of swooping, but in the dejected, resigned way you do it. We are Ospreys, and we don’t really like to swoop.

2. Identifying with the campus geese more than Ozzie Osprey. I truly hate the geese. They’re mean, they’re aggressive, and they poop on everything. However, the fact that they didn’t make the list of traditions blows my mind. They’re iconic! They are UNF! They’re in our ponds, on our sidewalks, and clogging up our roads all year long. Before I even knew who Ozzie Osprey was, I knew about the geese. And had a healthy fear of them, but that’s another story.

3. Hanging out on the green. This one is indisputable. The green is the center of UNF – student, faculty, and goose alike all chill on and around this area. It’s the real life version of everyone’s mental image of the “quad” or the “square,” or whatever bad college movies prepared you for. And it actually doesn’t disappoint. On any given day there’s a theological debate, or a makeshift stage being constructed so students can perform Shakespeare, or a bake sale, or a dodgeball tournament, or just people doing homework in the sunshine. It’s one of the great examples of college life at UNF.

4. Late-night runs to Ozzies. This one applies if you live on campus – which a lot of people don’t, but this is important to include because it’s a fundamentally freshman thing. When you’re living in the dorms and have a meal plan that’s about to expire, going to get really good chocolate chip pancakes at one in the morning is a staple in your life.

5. Going to the Wellness Center. Whether it’s just to get Jamba Juice like me, to check out the beautiful people that flock there, or to actually work out, UNF students love hitting the gym. We should, because our Wellness Center is really nice. But students here have a laser-like focus on their fitness (or, like me, their smoothies), making the free-to-use gym a very important part of our life.

6. Leaving campus as soon as class is over. Unfortunately for the uni’s administration, a lot of students come here for class and nothing else. They have bigger and better things to do off campus – jobs, families, and whole other lives exist outside of the university. Ever been to campus on a Friday afternoon? Campus is deserted. For a university trying to scrap its commuter status, the administration doesn’t seem too eager to change this. Those who live on campus have nothing to do on the weekends because everything is closed. Maybe they think a list of traditions will keep students on campus more than an open Papa John’s.

7. Complaining about a lack of football team and not caring about other UNF athletics. This is quintessential to being a UNF student – you hear the question “So when are we going to get a football team?” almost as often as “I’m gonna be late – I can’t find a place to park.” The university president probably hears it every single day (poor guy). But despite the campus-wide obsession with football, no one cares about the other sports on campus. Basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer – no one wants to go to any of those games. So why would they give us a football team? It’s a paradox that isn’t going to end anytime soon.

8. Getting caught smoking weed. The good thing about UNF is that we are a really safe campus. Crime is at a minimum here. However, if you read the Spinnaker’s Police Beat, one of the most common headlines is “Car search yields marijuana.” It’s practically a tradition for a student to be “referred to student conduct.”

9. Taking classes here for way longer than you want to. According to the Board of Trustees, less than half of UNF undergraduate students graduate in under six years. “U Never Finish” is everyone’s favorite way to spell UNF. This is probably the truest tradition we have on campus. Whether it’s because of bad advising (which could be a tradition all on its own) or the fact that all our students have busy lives off campus, you’re probably at UNF for the long haul.

10. Complaining about parking. Maybe the real tradition at UNF is complaining in general. But one of our favorite things to complain about is parking. Even though we have really great parking compared to other state universities, if you don’t complain, you aren’t cool.

11. Market Days. This is actually a really cool thing that the university does. On Wednesdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Student Union Osprey Plaza local vendors, clubs, and organizations set up tables and try to sell you stuff, give away free stuff, and get you involved in their organization. T-shirts, food, little things emblazoned with logos that you’ll never use but want anyway – all are waiting for you at one of the only neat events on campus. You never know what’s going to be at Market Day, but you’ll probably stop by anyway.

12. Not getting the traditional college experience. We all expected college to include certain things in excess. Frat parties, binge drinking, communal bathrooms, protests, football games, and Homecoming, to name a few. And while UNF has some of these things, they definitely aren’t in excess and they are not what you expected. However, some students chose UNF precisely for that reason. UNF is not like the movies, and it’s not like UF. It has an identity all its own, and it’s time the administration and its students start embracing it.


This article was updated at 5:11 p.m. on July 9, 2014.

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