Students Speak Out on SB5
Most of the students in attendance were there to protest Senate Executives’ decision to not vote on a bill that would formally state an opinion on SB5. While Student Senate President Kyle Triplett previously stated that the bill would not be voted on because SB 5 was “purely political” and not a student issue, many students at the Speak Out sternly disagreed.
“SB 5 … limits the collective bargaining rights of public employees, which includes firefighters, policemen and public school teachers, which many of these students wish to become,” said Tyler Barton. “To say this isn’t a student issue is blatantly not true … SB 5 affects every realm of this university.”
Barton continued with his prediction for Athens County. “Athens County is the poorest county in the state of Ohio, and Ohio University is the largest employer in this county. If workers here lose their right to collectively bargain, it is not unreasonable to expect the problem of poverty in this area … will be worsened.”
State Representative Debbie Phillips agreed, saying, “This is not a partisan issue, it’s a quality of life issue.”
Isaac Smith cited Faculty Senate’s passage of a resolution to support the repeal of SB 5, saying, “Since Ohio University is a public university, our professors are public employees and are directly and negatively affected by SB 5 … I think that it is our responsibility as a student body… to show our support.”
The students at the Speak Out also questioned Triplett’s categorization of SB 5 as too political.
“I find it ironic that Student Senate is the primary political, legislative body representing students at Ohio University, yet you do not want to pass resolutions that are political,” said Jess Miller. “You are seriously limiting the democratic powers of this institution by not even allowing this resolution to come to a vote.”
Barton added, “I don’t quite understand what [too political] means in an institution that is called Student Senate.”
Senate Treasurer Chris Wimsatt revised Triplett’s usage of “political” after the General Body meeting. “I think calling it political might be the wrong approach. I think the right approach would be to say it’s very partisan,” he said. “When you can draw the lines of who supports and who doesn’t support on a purely partisan basis, than that’s something student government can’t pass.”
And while the majority of the students who spoke called for support of public servants and their rights to collectively bargain, some students focused on another aspect of SB 5.
“Senate Bill 5 … does define marriage as between a man and a woman,” said Scott Eardley. “We are humans, and we are dignified … and we deserve the right to love as we so please. All we want … is to spend the rest of our lives together committed, in what our society recognizes as a proper union. And this bill wants to further counteract these efforts.”
For Mohamad Al-Issa, President of the International Student Union, the choice to vote was the most important part of the Speak Out.
“I come from Jordan … back where I come from, democracy is not how it is here … our voice doesn’t count,” he said. “When I see that you guys have an issue that you want to present, and you’re not allowed to vote on it, it’s kind of ironic.”
Al-Issa begged Senate to keep their democratic sides by allowing a vote. “Don’t break that democracy dream … it’s something that makes the U.S. different, it makes you unique.”
But despite the majority of students that pushed for Senate to allow a vote on SB5 onto the ballot, there were students who agreed with the executives’ decision to remove the issue from the agenda.
“[The vote] would not be representative of the whole student voice,” said President of the College Republicans Ryan Dilworth.
After hearing the twelve specific students voice their feelings on the recent Senate action, Triplett offered his appreciation for their input and clarification of his intents.
“We are certainly, as a body, more educated tonight because of all of you coming to speak to us,” he said. “Student Senate fully supports and respects our faculty members here at this university: staff members, firefighters, policemen. To say otherwise would just not make sense. We value them and we respect their rights … we did not feel that for this Wednesday night … that this body were educated enough to make a vote.”
Triplett stated that state and federal affairs commissioner, Taylor Abbott would be presenting information on SB5 in the upcoming weeks.
Other executives had different plans for how to continue after the huge student turn out.
“I know personally, myself, I’m going to do more research on this issue. I’m going to personally do a survey … on how many students are informed on this issue and how many students care about this issue,” said Vice President Roger Jones.
“There will be presentations, there will be items of discussion about it,” added Wimsatt.
“I think that Senate is taking the chance to educate themselves on this issue then deciding whether they want to vote,” said Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi. “My opinion… is that there are still a lot of people who don’t understand it and I don’t think it would be prudent to vote on it today.”