Letter to the Editor: Student Government wants its rock back, and is pushing students and faculty over to get it

Thomas Beaucham

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Graphic by Sam Chaney

In the last couple of weeks, Student Government has begun to re-assert its claim to the concrete slab that once housed the ill-fated skate park. Coming in as a first-year student in 2014-15, I remember the park was on its last leg, desperate for funding and repairs. SG had already given up funding and the park was supported by the Student Life & Services (SLS) Fee and the Department of Recreation.

By summer 2015, the park was demolished and what has remained for three years is a flat piece of rock. Since then, the space has been utilized by interested users, namely the Ogier Gardens and the Coastal Engineering Department. They have promoted student interests in the best way they can and no one from SG has opposed their usage of the space.

Now, there is a proposed resolution coming to Senate that asks for the removal of one of these campus entities (in all likelihood it will pass with no opposition). The argument is that the slab should be reserved for student use, not academic use since it was paid for with the Activity & Service (A&S) Fee. While I agree with the reasoning in general, I find the move to evict the Coastal Engineering Department inappropriate considering the circumstances.

This slab, at one time, belonged to Student Government. On July 1, 2014, SG abandoned its claim to the space when it stopped funding the skate park and exhibited no interest in the space’s usage. Now that the space is promoting the education of UNF students, which I find to be the primary purpose of any university, there is a dialogue that I find to be somewhat humorous:

SG: “We want our slab back!

Student: “What will you use it for?”

SG: “We don’t know.”

Student: “But people are using the space.”

SG: “We don’t care. It’s our slab!”

Ultimately, in the decades that come and go, no one will care how a facility (or in this case, a rock) was paid for. What rational people care about is whether or not the space is being used to further the purposes of this university. We can debate over what the best uses of this concrete slab are, but for now, the debate is centered on removing productive users of the space for…? We don’t know.

I’m not an engineering major, but I am an Osprey and I think some innocent Ospreys are being slapped around publicly. I find this behavior tactless. If SG was genuinely interested in reclaiming its property, a dialogue should have been made with the Coastal Engineering Department and university officials to develop a rational plan of action, one that includes a decision on what, ultimately, the space will be used for.

We could be using this time to learn what the Coastal Engineering Department is doing to promote UNF. One thing I have already learned is they have a wave pool for research, which apparently isn’t something you find at every university (there are two others in the entire state). We could be talking about what our priorities are for the space that used to be the skate park. We could even be talking about if a skate park is a worthy investment (hate to say it, but it’s not coming back…the last one cost $300,000).

Instead, of all things, we are talking about the flipping concrete slab! This resolution isn’t about a principle; it’s just government at its finest.

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