Big changes for Student Union East

Emily Echevarria, Student Government Reporter

In a Senate meeting on Friday Sept. 20, Student Government unanimously voted to approve a bill regarding executive branch plans to activate the first floor of the Student Union.
The legislation was developed by Student Body President John Aloszka and Vice President Nat Costello over the past several months. It encompasses plans to create a Student Involvement Center and to relocate the Lend-A-Wings student pantry to the Student Union to make it more accessible for students. 

A problem noticed by universities all across Florida is that students are not getting involved in campus life, which can lead to problems like apathy, homesickness, and feeling a lack of community on campus. These problems are plaguing UNF, and Aloszka noted that they can be seen in our retention rates. 

When students don’t feel like they belong on campus or are connected in any way, they end up transferring elsewhere. 25% of UNF students that transfer end up in larger Florida universities, which indicates that they are looking for the community and engagement opportunities that other universities offer. In order to help students connect on campus, the Aloszka administration proposed the Student Involvement Center. 

Currently, finding a club you fit into on campus can feel like a maze, but the new center is aimed at creating a central hub to coordinate with organizations and students to produce meaningful involvement on campus. President Aloszka colloquially referred to it as a form of “in-person Tinder,” where students can be matched with organizations based on their interests. 

The center will be staffed by other students with experience with involvement on campus, like club presidents, RA’s, and orientation leaders. Further, a list of phrases, such as “I don’t feel connected on campus,” will be developed and distributed to advisors, so that if a student comes to them with concerns about not feeling at home on campus, they can be connected with the Student Involvement Center. It will also involve peer mentoring, where you can chat with other students about how you can get involved, and will be located on the first floor of Student Union East. 

Further plans for changing the first floor include relocating Lend-a-Wing student pantry. This is a service that first opened in April 2012 to make food and hygiene products more accessible for students. Currently located in Hicks Hall, it is a service that is intended to help struggling students but is underutilized due to lack of knowledge about it and due to its inconvenient location. 

This re-vamp is definitely warranted. Research from the Data Analytics Department shows that 31% of UNF students live in poverty. The stereotype of college students living off of ramen is real and is something we often overlook. Many students at UNF are struggling with having access to a healthy meal, especially following Hurricane Dorian, where many students went without work for a week and were unable to afford groceries or rent due to lack of a paycheck

The goal of moving the pantry is to destigmatize food insecurity on campus and to make the service more accessible. It will be incorporated as part of the game room in the Student Union. To make space for it, the ping pong tables and pool tables will be relocated to the Boathouse. 

The pantry will also  incorporate various measures to ensure the privacy of students. For example, there will be an online request form you can submit with your N number to pick up food. There will also be a satellite office of Ozzie’s Closet located within the new center, where students can come to find business attire for projects or job interviews. 

The overall budget for the projects is $222,0223 out of general reserves, and looks to be completed by early 2020. The Student Involvement Center is slated to accept its first advisory appointments on Feb. 1, 2020, and the new location of Lend-A-Wings should be ready to open its doors after winter break. 


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