Student Senate Supports Bill Granting Student Trustee Voting Rights
Currently, Student Trustees, who are representation from the general student body, are able to speak at Board of Trustee meetings and influence board members but are unable to vote on issues presented to the board.
Senate members heard the opinions of HB 377 supporters during the student speak out, in particular STAND President Ellie Hamrick. Hamrick has spearheaded the Bobcats for Conflict Free Campus campaign to end the use of electronics produced using “conflict” materials campus-wide.
The campaign has gained widespread approval from groups such as Student Senate, Graduate Student Senate, faculty and staff members, and asks that Ohio University pledge to only purchase conflict-free electronics.
“We really appreciated all that Student Senate has done to promote the Bobcats for Conflict Free Campus campaign,” Hamrick said.
But despite high approval, the campaign, which has existed for 16 months, has yet to gain recognition from the Board of Trustees.
“It seems like we have followed all of the appropriate procedures for having our voices heard over the past 16 months. It’s not something we are taking lightly,” said Hamrick.
Recently, President McDavis has promised to create a committee to examine the issue. According to Hamrick, so far no such committee has been formed. Hamrick emphasized Student Trustee voting rights as a symbol of “student power.”
“We think that student trustee voting rights would help student voices be heard,” said Hamrick.
“Without a voice we don’t have anything,” said voting rights supporter Shannon Welch.
Jared Henderson noted that it is important to remember the bill “would affect all public Ohio universities, not just OU,” which has traditionally had a friendly relationship between Student Trustees and Board of Trustee members.
Treasurer Chris Wimsatt also pointed out that the bill has received bipartisan support in the House, and encouraged Student Senate to “move with the tide in this particular issue.”
“I think that Student Senate support of the bill is important because they, of course, claim to be the legitimate voice of the students on campus and it’s important that they represent the students. And I think that students really want this,” said Tyler Barton, supporter of the bill, after the resolution was passed.
“I think the bill itself, which hopefully will become law, is incredibly important because students essentially make the university, we fund the university, and if it weren’t for the students there wouldn’t be a university,” said Barton. “The idea that we would have no say in the government of the university is absurd to me.”
Barton noted that those opposed to the bill claim that students do not need the right to vote because they already have influence on board members, who can vote. “It’s kind of like saying women don’t need the right to vote because they have husbands who can vote for them, which is absurd,” said Barton, who emphasized that students needed the right to have control over their own interests.
Senate President Kyle Tripplett was initially not in favor of the bill. “Personally I feel that our ability to sit in executive session is greater than a vote actually because there are many institutions that do not allow that,” said Tripplett. “However, I think that House Bill 377 is a bill for everybody and I do believe that other institutions in the state should have the rights that we have to sit in on executive session.”
“Senate overwhelming approved of this, and I think that speaks volumes to Senate’s approval for wanting Student Trustees across the state to have the privileges we already have,” said Tripplett.
The other resolution that passed was in support of a car sharing program within the university. The program would allow students to rent a university-bought car, at an hourly rate, only requiring the renter to have a valid driver’s license.
“It helps us get closer to becoming a more sustainable university,” said Secondary Sponsor Residence Life Commissioner Evan Ecos, praising the program’s eco-friendly perspective.
The resolution passed with unanimous consent.
The other important issue discussed at the meeting was the problems posed by the quarters-to-semesters transition to graduating students. Currently, for students scheduled to graduate in the Spring 2012, 192 credit hours are required. Because semesters only require 120 hours of completion for graduation, the university had to alter the number of credits annotated with each class. When translated back into quarter hours, the credit hours required for graduation becomes 180 hours. Because of this change, the Board of Trustees voted to withhold certificates of degree until Dec.15, 2012, instead of spring.
Academic Affairs Commissioner Amrit Saini called the board’s resolution “arbitrary.” Other Senate members in opposition to the board’s resolution said it would be a major disadvantage to the students.
“The university has essentially nothing to lose. The students have everything to lose,” said Ecos. “It puts the students at a disadvantage when getting a job.”
So far, the Senate has looked into creating a resolution supporting the distribution of degrees at either the end of Spring Quarter or Summer break.
Senate also heard presentations from Athletic Director Jim Schaus, on the building of a Multi-Purpose Center, and City and County Affairs Vice-Commissioner, Mary Kate Gallager, about Senate-endorsed festival safety.
The Multi-Purpose Center has raised most of its hoped for $11 million. The building, which started as a concept in 2005, has since received $9.7 million in donations and hopes to complete its fundraising by April 1, 2012. The building will be used for indoor athletic practices, and has the potential to be sectioned off to include classes during the early morning hours. The center is also available for ROTC training as well as intramural and club sports.
“Once we have a facility like this, there’s all sorts of things we can do with it,” said Schaus. “It would have a tremendous impact on our campus.”
Many questions about budgeting and financing arose during the meeting. Schaus discussed that all of those issues will be addressed in later discussions once the fundraising goal has been met.
Vice-Commissioner Gallager, during her presentation, said that this will be the fifth consecutive year in which the Senate has been involved in promoting “fest safety.” The festival safety committee is looking into adopting “party-packs” as part of a risk-reduction program. The packs would “lower the health risks of fest goers and hosts,” said Gallager. Items within the packs might include 12 ounce cups, with printed safety information and phone numbers, pizza, water bottles and wristbands. In order to receive the packs, Gallager said, the committee is considering having hosts register with Student Senate.
However, Senate has not decided their next course of action regarding their fest safety campaign.