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Student Senate engages in heated emergency contact information debate

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Student Senate witnessed heated debate as the body discussed a resolution that would support the creation of a mandatory emergency contact system, a measure that was ultimately delayed for a future meeting.

Many voices were heard Wednesday night regarding the mandatory nature of the potential information registry, with many senators arguing for some form of opt-out option to be amended into the resolution.

The proposed resolution would officially support a mandate that all students provide cellphone, email and home address contact information before they register for classes; a measure to provide comprehensive emergency services to all Ohio University students.

Student Senate Zach George confirmed that the same resolution debated Wednesday, with an added amendment requesting a choice to opt-out, would be voted on at the general body meeting next week.

“The majority of the body seemed to be more comfortable with this amendment added. At the end of the day, it’s my job to be the voice of the student body,” said George.

With Treasurer Evan Ecos and President George firmly positioned in favor of the resolution as it stood, senators argued that implementing the resolution would make the campus a safer place, especially in light of recent threats on campus and incidents of attempted suicide.

On the other side, Governmental Affairs Sen. Giles Allen and newly appointed Honors Tutorial College Sen. Jared Henderson, among others, argued against the current resolution, citing concerns of information safety and right to privacy.

“For whatever reason, you will have the ability to fill out an online form to have it removed. This is individual freedom… We are all adults; this is a choice that we should be allowed to make,” said Allen.

George focused on the safety aspect of the issue, citing recent suicide attempts of students as a reason such an emergency contact registry should be implemented.

Henderson attempted to clear the air, making distinctions in the complex arguments being made.

“We do ourselves a disservice by making this one question. I can be both anti-suicide and pro-‘opt-out,’ as I most assuredly am,” said Henderson.

Ecos responded to Henderson about the delineation of the questions, saying that need for a comprehensive safety net outweighed the right to withhold this personal information. Much of his argument centered around concerns of safety on campus, appealing especially to those suffering from mental illness.

“They are two different questions. But sometimes they are the same,” said Ecos. “I’m fortunate that I grew in a very stable home. People don’t have parents like I have… some people are on their own. Those individuals are also at high risk.”

Ecos cited the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy Act, which requires that universities make timely broadcasts to students using electronic communication in the event of crises on campus.

At one point, Ecos said that students, if they felt compelled not to give up their personal information, could lie on the proposed electronic form if they so chose.

The debate became heated with one situation erupting between Henderson and Ecos that compelled George to call the body to order.

Many other voices were heard in debate, including senators Adam Brown, Mary Kate Gallagher and Kelsey Higgins.

By the end of the debate, George moved to amend the motion, changing his previous position as the primary sponsor of this resolution.

Vice President Lombardi and others expressed pride and satisfaction that the sometimes heated discourse went relatively smoothly and that the senators remained civil throughout their discussion.

 

 

 

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