‘I am the voice of the students’: Student Body President explains her role on the Presidential Search Committee

Julia Croston, Government Reporter

On Sep. 30, Spinnaker met with Student Body President Selma Besirevic to discuss her role as the student representative on the UNF Presidential Search Committee. Along with Besirevic, was Student Government (SG) Communications Director Bailey Bernard to add information on the future goals for SG and the new president. 

Recently, President Szymanski stepped down to become the CEO and President of MedNexus. Based on the tentative timeline, the next president of UNF will be confirmed during the summer of 2022. 

President Besirevic seeks a candidate who is accessible, has school spirit, and will make positive changes on campus. Besirevic does not want UNF to continue to operate, or be seen, as a business. 

As the voice of the students, Besirevic feels passionate that students should be the top priority, especially when selecting a new president. She wants students to be proud of the president, and she encourages students to ask questions and share input at the open forum committee meetings. 

“I am the voice of the students, and I prioritize them. I do not care about how administration or faculty feels about me. It’s about how my constituents feel about me, because I am here because of them,” Besirevic specified. 

Besirevic also seeks adaptability in a president. She briefly referenced President Szymanski’s handling of COVID-19 before emphasizing the importance of achieving goals. 

She stated: “[COVID-19] came out of nowhere. I don’t want that kind of principle to guard our next president as an excuse. You know, it caught us by a whirlwind, but we still have to function. We are here to give students degrees and make them proud to be an alum of the University of North Florida.” 

As a complaint against the former president, President Besirevic believes Szymanski could have been more involved to make necessary changes for UNF. 

Besirevic explained: “I wasn’t seeing much of asking what could be done by him, but rather his team. As someone who is head of a branch and delegates as a president myself, I seek those things; things that can be done and then, therefore, delegated to my team.”

To remove part of former President Szymanski’s legacy, Besirevic wants to move past his strict stance on alcohol to allow tailgating. Students have wanted tailgating on campus for a while, and Besirevic wants to make sure students can have the traditional college experience like other universities. 

As another result of tailgating, Besirevic suggested an improvement of social events will increase mental and social health to ultimately improve academic performance.

Tailgating would help build a community at UNF contributing to student engagement and making memories. Besirevic believes bringing tailgating to UNF is feasible and will help prevent students from transferring. 

“Without our students, we are nothing,” Bernard added. 

In order to create change, President Besirevic has already reached out to Interim President Pamela Chally about tailgating. Besirevic is willing to compromise, but she wants students to be the main priority of UNF instead of personal opinions.

If tailgating is implemented, heavy planning will ensure student safety. Besirevic clarified: “Other universities still [tailgate], so I don’t see [safety concerns] as a feasible argument. I see more of an excuse to not have a college experience, because UNF is going to be the outlier. To my knowledge, we are the only university who does not provide a full college experience. We are already an outlier because we are the University of No Football.”

Additionally, President Besirevic wants to make sure student athletes are celebrated the same way they would be celebrated at other D-1 colleges. Tailgating would be another opportunity to celebrate UNF athletes. 

As another way to create change, President Besirevic has been working to reinstate the Boathouse and to figure out the circumstances of Slice. She wants the next president to be willing and excited to fix issues on campus like food and engagement. 

Currently, the timeline of the presidential selection process has a tentative schedule. The first Presidential Selection Committee meeting will take place on Oct. 6. There will also be a survey released in late Oct. or Nov. to receive student input. In 2022, the job will be marketed nationally to find the best candidates. 


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