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Student Trustee Voting Rights Debate Goes On

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Ohio University’s stance on Ohio legislation that would grant student trustees voting rights has been unclear since the bill’s introduction in January.

The issue of student trustee voting rights has been hotly contested at OU, with numerous student groups coming out in favor of granting the trustees the right to vote, whereas the current student trustees, senior Allison Arnold and junior Amanda Roden, have expressed that this right is not necessary at OU.

“I have said that I don’t think student trustee voting rights are necessary on our campus at this time because our board values my opinion in discussions and deeply considers said opinions in all decisions,” said Arnold, who stressed that students passionate about the issue should directly meet with the student trustees.

“My current view is one that takes into account the constituency of students, as well as my other constituents, which are all tax payers of Ohio, as I am governor appointed,” Arnold said. “I stand by my belief that students’ voices are heard on this board. Individual students must remember that just because they feel one way, doesn’t mean the majority of their peers agree and furthermore, student trustees represent more than just the students on Ohio University’s main campus.”

Roden said she agrees with Arnold that their opinions are heard and appreciated on the board. “In my short time on the board, my opinions have been more than welcomed and listened to, but also taken into consideration and have an effect on the outcome,” said Roden.

OU’s board of trustees has yet to take a stance on the issue.

Student senate President Zach George said student trustee voting rights “would ensure that the student voice will never be neglected.”

“While I believe our current board of trustees listens and respects the student voice and opinion I also believe the board is transient in nature,” George said. “Board members serve on two year terms and such friendly, student oriented climates can change.”

George also illustrated that the number of academic institutions that grant their student trustees voting power has doubled nationally in the past decade.

This month, student senate passed a resolution officially endorsing the bill and encouraging the board of trustees to do the same.

Jacob Chaffin, Chief Lobbying Officer of student senate and member of the OU Student Union, who authored the senate resolution, said that granting student trustees voting power is a step in the right direction to make OU a more democratic institution.

“I became interested in STVR [student trustee voting rights] because of the fight against the tuition hike last year,” Chaffin said. “Having students with a vote on the board of trustees would make sure that we are being represented at full capacity.”

“That being said,” he said, “STVR would benefit a variety of student organizations on campus that are struggling to make positive structural changes at OU. One such organization that comes to mind is Bobcats for a Conflict Free Campus, who until recently were largely ignored by the board of trustees.”

House Bill 377, legislation that would permit Ohio institutions’ respective boards of trustees to grant student trustees the right to vote on board issues and sit in on executive sessions, passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is currently under review by the Ohio Senate.

Ohio public institution officials, such as Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, have come out in support of the bill.

While the bill was introduce to give student trustees the right to vote on their respective boards, a provision made by the Ohio House Education Committee gave the individual boards the right to decide if their respective student trustees would be able to vote. If passed into law, it is unclear whether OU would grant its student trustees voting powers.

Both George and Chaffin have said they are confident that the board will grant voting power to its student trustees.

“While I do not pretend to have the insight of the board of trustees, I believe that to claim the right to vote is ‘unnecessary’ is incredibly naive and short sighted. No one in history has been content with having influence over having a concrete vote,” said Chaffin, who stressed that these opinions do not represent student senate or the student union. “If the board of trustee’s does not act on this opportunity, they will become obstructionists to democratic process and the future of Ohio University.”

Arnold and Roden have very different views.

“I have heard the resolution and seen the signs by a few student groups that are looking for student trustee voting rights, but I still believe that the students are being represented on the board, just like all of our other constituents, very well,” said Roden. “However, there is always room for improvement and I would love to hear from students that have an opinion and want to be heard. Allison and I cannot represent or convey what we cannot hear and our office hours have been nearly silent.”

“All of us are working for the same goals,” she said.

Co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mike Stinziano (D – Columbus), told the Daily Kent Stater in April that Ohio University and Bowling Green State University have been the “most vocal” opponents of the bill. OU administration has said it stands by the decision of the state.

 

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