Home Politics Elections Editorial: Student Senate 2013-14 Election Guide

Editorial: Student Senate 2013-14 Election Guide

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The New Political traditionally does not make formal endorsements for Ohio University Student Senate races. We feel as though choosing one ticket over another would compromise our integrity in covering these campaigns, so instead, each spring, we produce a critical analysis of each ticket, comparing and contrasting their platforms in an effort to determine what would be most beneficial for students. The judgments and opinions expressed in this voting guide are those of the editorial staff of The New Political.

The election this year has pitted VOICE against FUSS, two parties from very different backgrounds. A ticket with 32 members, VOICE features Nick Southall, current Residence Life Commissioner on Senate, for president; Anna Morton, current off-campus life senator, for vice president; and Austin LaForest, currently the College of Education Senator and Budget Chair, for treasurer. A ticket with 3 members, FUSS features Matt Farmer, current president of the Resident’s Action Council, for President; Jacob Chaffin, currently senior lobbyist on senate, for vice president; and Rebekah Rittenberg for treasurer.

The size disparity between the parties is apparent. VOICE has been a campaign in the making for almost an entire year. FUSS, in contrast, began their campaign a month ago primarily to deny VOICE the opportunity to run completely unopposed. This is not to say that FUSS does not have a focus in its campaign. FUSS has a fully formed platform and has set itself apart from the opposing party in its platform and its priorities.

VOICE, the far more organized party, has a ticket combining both current senate members and 19 outside candidates. However, the group’s core is largely seated in senate regulars, and the entire executive ticket serves as some sort of leadership within senate. That experience within senate is being used by VOICE to express that they are more qualified to take on these positions. They’ve repeatedly criticized FUSS and its executive ticket for not knowing the ins-and-outs of senate and how it operates. Conversely, FUSS argues that it’s position outside of senate gives it a stronger perspective on how senate needs to change and the correct issues it should be pursuing.

Along that theme, both parties seem to express varying degrees of interest in changing how Student Senate operates. Farmer says very plainly that Student Senate isn’t relevant, citing instances when he’s encountered students who don’t even know that we have student government at Ohio University. They both argue that while many students are familiar with the programs that Senate puts on like Athens Beautification Day and Take Back the Night, many don’t realize who is behind that programming. Both parties say they would like to increase the visibility and legitimacy of Senate. VOICE offers more concrete plans for supplementing this increased visibility.

On the topic of platforms, the tickets differ sharply. VOICE, in both its platform and campaign, has tackled a broad swath of issues in comparison to FUSS. Sustainability, Diversity, Student Representation, Residence Life Programs, and Affordability all have a place in VOICE’s platform. Many items on their list are compelling and original ideas that, if implemented, would do the university and Student Senate a great deal of good. However, some are superfluous and unrealistic, like franchise restaurants on campus. Many lack concrete plans for implementation, but are continuations of current senate policies.

FUSS’s platform is much more concise and covers a narrower spectrum of issues. Many issues are linked to making Student Senate and student governance at Ohio University more democratic. FUSS’s priorities include empowering students, opposing guaranteed tuition and holding the university accountable in making finances more transparent. A platform that is altogether more adversarial and aggressive, FUSS has chosen to draw support from those who are skeptical of administration and its relationship with students. They cite the statistic that 68 percent of the university’s funding comes from student tuition, and therefore students should be afforded more shared governance.

On the topic of guaranteed tuition, the two parties split dramatically. FUSS runs on the platform that guaranteed tuition is a guaranteed tuition hike and that Senate should vote to oppose guaranteed tuition as soon as possible. VOICE criticizes FUSS for this stance, instead taking the more hesitant position of waiting until actual numbers are finalized before deciding one way or another. They find FUSS’s decision to oppose guaranteed tuition too hasty and reckless. While there are merits to waiting to see final numbers of guaranteed tuition, preemptive action may be necessary if the Board of Trustees intends to rush this plan through. FUSS’s position may prove to be on the right side of history once the plan finally arrives, though many questions still remain.

A major component of VOICE’s platform is the expansion of the organizational liaison position within senate. This proposed change is a mechanic that VOICE has touted as a catch all for addressing problems of Senate irrelevancy and student underrepresentation within senate. Under their plans, student organizations would have officers that sit on senate meetings and share with senators and executives their concerns and what they feel their organizations need on campus. VOICE hopes that this program will help bring more students to senate with their issues.

FUSS’s biggest focus in all of its communications is the issue of affordability for students. Much of their campaign has been centered around their stance against the proposed guaranteed tuition model and tuition hikes at Ohio University. While VOICE is opposed to tuition hikes, they have seemed to express understanding that the cost of higher education is rising. Both parties support potential measures to increase the state share of instruction, a revenue stream that has been severely cut over the years, but both parties lack concrete plans for achieving this.

Both candidates want to continue much of the programming that Senate currently has, including the big events like Beautification Day, Take Back the Night, Pride Week, etc. Farmer says that he loves this programming and that it would not be cut if he were to be elected president. Neither would cut these current programs.

VOICE has argued that FUSS, given their background in student union and their staunch opposition, too often employs “shouting” and other protests as a means of inciting change for students. While “shouting” is a somewhat reductionist way to look at protest, neither quiet diplomacy nor rowdy protest will fully communicate the needs and desires of students on their own. As far as inciting change for students, VOICE represents more of the same, for better or for worse. If you’re looking for fresh faces that will gladly challenge administration in any way possible, you may want to vote FUSS.

Common criticism with regard to this debate is that FUSS is anti-administration and VOICE is more pro-administration. While these tendencies are certainly correct in that both parties lean in these respective directions, it’s not the full picture. Both parties claim to want to both challenge and work with administration on close topics. VOICE is absolutely right in arguing that scorning administrators will close off the healthy relationship that Senate currently has with administrators like Provost Pam Benoit and President Roderick McDavis. However, we feel that there have been times where Senate could have done more to put administrators feet to the fire as far as student interests are concerned.

To the credit of both tickets, both parties support student trustee voting rights, a position recently endorsed by newly-appointed student trustee Keith Wilbur, a first among a student in that position. An expansion of shared governance with the administration is a key part of FUSS’s platform. Farmer also openly supports changing the process that student trustee candidates are selected by more of an open vote by Senate and students. VOICE also supports changing this process, but not as openly or drastically. While Senate has covered a lot of ground in this regard, we feel that the topic of expanding student governance is an issue that needs to be taken more seriously.

Overall, this election has been a continuation of a trend when it comes to Student Senate elections: there’s one party that represents a sort-of incumbent, and another smaller party that seems more aggressive in challenging the status quo. While Senate has come a long way and has accomplished much in recent years, more change may be necessary to continue this trend.

Students are increasingly worried about student debt and the cost of higher education, and a renewed focus on these issues may be necessary through FUSS’s fresh leadership. On the other hand, why fix what is not necessarily broken? VOICE offers much in terms of organization, experience and concrete plans for improving Student Senate as a whole. While their plans may not be revolutionary, they may prove to be the most effective and measured option available.

Be sure to vote for the candidates that best represent you for Ohio University’s 2013-14 Student Senate on April 18.

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One Comment

  1. […] conversation of the races toward issues that might have not been addressed otherwise. These were F.U.S.S. in 2013, Restart in 2014 and Phoenix in 2015. That kind of ticket is absent this […]

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