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Student Senate bill asks OU to drop student arrest charges

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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct number of resolutions Student Senate passed on Feb. 8. 

Student Senate passed a bill calling for Ohio University to drop the charges against the students arrested during the Feb. 1 sit-in after a long and contentious discussion. The bill also asked for the president and executive vice president and provost to meet with student protesters in a public forum to open a dialogue.

This bill came two days after Faculty Senate passed a resolution that called for OU to drop the charges against all who were arrested.

Before the bill was discussed, students took the opportunity to speak to the Senate body about the previous week’s protest.

To start the discussion, Anika Holland, chairwoman of Ohio University’s student legal services, read a statement defending the students who were arrested and are now facing legal charges and charges from the Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility. Holland referenced OU’s “tradition of protest” and argued the OUPD action was unlawful.

“Regardless of the legality of the order to vacate, student protesters sufficiently followed the order. Many students left the area and pathways, which were there throughout the protest, were cleared even more. OUPD therefore should not have arrested students,” Holland said. “OU shouldn’t punish students expressing political beliefs. By refusing to drop these charges against student protestors, OU is intentionally damaging the future prospects of its students.”

Holland further suggested the university submit a victim impact statement via OUPD Chief of Police Andrew Powers, Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones and the acting president of OU David Descutner. The statement allows the victim, in this case OU, an opportunity to speak during their sentencing.

“OU is technically the victim of this crime,” Holland said, “and these statements make a strong impression on judges and prosecutors and can influence sentences. CSLS urges OU to ask for the charges to be dropped.”

Beyond the legal language were strong emotions and arguments about whether the protest was handled well by administrators and police. One student, who only identified herself as Alyssa, spoke at length about her experience at the protest.

“Like the others, I was arrested last Wednesday. But unlike the others, I had dispersed,” she said, further explaining she had video proof asking an officer for permission to re-enter the building and retrieve the belongings of those who had been arrested. She was given permission, and as she went in, she was also arrested.

“As I went in and I grabbed things, another officer grabbed me from behind and twisted my arm behind my back,” she said. “If we were told if we dispersed nothing was going to happen to us, then there was no need for myself to be arrested because no one else who was collecting belongings had been. I’m hoping that telling you guys my story helps with this and kind of giving us leeway that not everyone there was in the wrong.”

Many senate members also spoke out in support of the students who were arrested, including Women’s Affairs Vice-Commissioner Kim Reynolds, Governmental Affairs Commissioner Nicholas Felt, Center for International Studies Senator Hannah Borowski, Senator At-Large Carolyn Miller, SAC Commissioner Ellenore Holbrook and Max Zelman, a student who was also arrested.

A student who remained unnamed also read a statement on behalf of students that echoed the sentiments expressed in a recent letter to the editor.

“By failing to support our right, not giving us someone to talk to, you are setting a dangerous precedent,” she said.

Descutner spoke to the Senate body and asked students to talk about what they looked for in a president. Miller responded to this request by asking for better communication between administration and students.

“I want a president who is willing to be uncomfortable, who is willing to admit that he or she is wrong, a president who says look at what I’m doing and how great I am, I want a president who will sit there and say ‘You know what? I screwed up.’”

Senators also passed a second bill that added their support to a graduate buy down of the over $1,000 general fee for graduate students. They also passed five separate resolutions, which individually appointed Zachary Weeks and Billie Frank as South Green senators and Perry Eldredge as International Affairs senator.

Resolutions to compensate the judicial panel and appoint the Senate Appropriations uFund senator, respectively, were tabled.

Student Senate meets weekly on Wednesdays at 7:15 p.m. in Walter 235.

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