Senate approves new senators, sans general election

Dargan Thompson

By Dargan Thompson

The UNF Student Government Senate approved the internal election of 21 senators Oct. 24 for the 2011-12 year.

Senator Billy Namen was appointed treasurer Oct. 31 by President Matthew Brockelman, leaving 20 senators to be sworn in at the Nov. 7 senate meetings.

Due to a lack of student interest for senate membership, the senate conducted fall elections internally this semester for the second time in three years.

Only 21 candidates submitted applications for the 26 open seats, said elections supervisor Britt Stromquist. Under Title VI of the SG constitution, elections are not held for seats when candidates run unopposed.

Stromquist said she thinks the disinterest in the open seats may come from the fact that applications for the seats are due early in the semester when people are still settling into their classes. She said SG tried to get the word out, but the Red Party put forth eight new senators while the blue and gray party did not put forth any.

The UNF Senate handles a yearly budget of $4.2 million from student fees.

Billy Namen, the newly appointed senate treasurer, was originally one of those elected internally. An incumbent for his position, Namen said he ran because he wanted to finish his term. He said he believes the shortage of candidates is due more to unawareness than apathy.

“I think [the problem] is a lack of people knowing the process,” Namen said.

John Jordan, former Senate president pro-temp, said fall 2009 general elections were also cancelled because there were not enough people running for the seats. Jordan said fall elections always tend to be smaller than spring elections, which gain more interest because of the presidential ticket involved.

“There is a team of people supporting the president,” he said. “They rally people to run for Senate.”

Jordan said in past fall general elections, fewer students turn out to vote than in spring.

“It’s the same thing as with real-world elections,” he said. “Way more people vote in the presidential elections than any of the other elections.”

Jordan, a three-year veteran of the Senate, said he did not run again this fall because he needs to focus on graduating and getting a job. He said he thinks many students are interested in being involved in SG but are already busy and don’t want to put in the effort it takes to become a member.

“The process behind it is time consuming,” Jordan said.

Stromquist said she anticipates more participation in the spring elections, and the lack of interest was a let down.

“I was really disappointed,” she said. “I will definitely work with the next supervisor to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Stromquist said despite there not being elections this semester, students still have a voice in who gets into SG.

“Every senator has to get 150 signatures to run,” she said. The signatures are basically a student’s agreement that they would vote for the senator in elections, she said.

“They can choose not to sign,” Stromquist said.

Some students don’t think of it that way.

“I definitely don’t consider signing a petition at all like voting for someone,” said Larissa Johnson, a UNF construction management senior. “I’ll sign a petition for almost anyone, but I put more thought into who I vote for.”

Stromquist said the prospect of running for SG can intimidate students, but it shouldn’t.

“People should come to meetings and see how things work,” she said. “It’s a really great experience.”

Nicholas Seabrook, assistant professor of political science at UNF, said having campus elections is beneficial for getting students to participating in elections in general. The 18- to 24-year-old age group usually has the lowest voter turnout, he said, often believing their vote doesn’t matter. Participation in elections is essential to the democratic process, Seabrook said.

“Elections are the key link between the people and the government,” he said.

Four additional senators are also coming up for senate seats at the Nov. 7 senate meeting. With the new senators, and after two senators were relieved of their legislative duties Oct. 31, six senate seats remain open. There are also two open graduate seats and one open college seat for the Brooks College of Health.