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Student Senate President expresses concerns over free speech policy

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Student Senate 2017-18. File photo by Connor Perrett

Amid hot debate surrounding the free speech policy, Lama issued a five minute statement regarding the interim policy update during Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting. 

Student Senate President Landen Lama opposed Ohio University’s interim free speech policy at Wednesday’s meeting. The Senate also discussed graduate students’ rights and passed four resolutions.

Lama addresses the new protest interim policy

Following President Duane Nellis’ address to the Graduate Student Senate meeting Tuesday night regarding the “Freedom of Expression” and “Use of Outdoor Space on the Athens Campus” policies, Lama took a little under five minutes to discuss the issue.  

Lama expressed his concern over the fact that it took over a month for the policy update to be shared with him. Lama also said that he openly expressed his concern over the policy at the Board of Trustees meeting.

“My primary concern on campus is First Amendment protections,” Lama said in reference to the Ohio U policy changes.

However, Lama claims that “there is some inconsistency in the reporting” by the Columbus Dispatch and Inside Higher Ed, which was part of the reasoning behind Student Senate’s decision to table the discussion until next week.  

The Dispatch quoted Lama saying, “We all understand why it’s happening, the world has come to this point where we have such polarizing opinions that we are restricting speech, and we understand why, but we’re still going to voice our opinions.”

Lama expressed his interest to see the Senate reach a consensus on the issue, something that he feels could not have been accomplished in tonight’s meeting.

The Ohio U Graduate Employee Organization speaks out

The Ohio U Graduate Employee Organization (OU GEO) spoke at the meeting and outlined its four primary concerns:

  • They want to increase health insurance subsidies for graduate students.  Ohio U ranks second lowest among peer universities.
  • They want to allow six weeks in paid parental leave for employed graduate students of the university.
  • They want the ability to opt out of the health insurance.
  • They wish to support international students.

The OU GEO said states that allow graduate students to unionize often have better benefits. It is currently illegal for graduate students to unionize in the state of Ohio.  

Other passed resolutions

  • Student Senate passed a resolution to create Senate inservices.
  • Student Senate made three new appointments: a chair to the Budget Committee, a senator to the Women Affairs Commission, and a member of the Russ College of Engineering to the Academic Affairs Commission
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