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All students to vote for replacement Student Senate VP

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The Student Senate vice presidential election has been postponed one week and opened to the entire Ohio University student body after a din of student voices at Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting accused Senate of failing to represent their constituents.

Over 20 students, many from the Ohio University Student Union, spoke out at the nearly three-hour meeting that also saw the resignation of three Senate members: Treasurer Austin LaForest, Fine Arts Senator Evan Taylor and Intern Director Kelsey Higgins.

Topics of conversation varied from allegations of the perpetrators of the Post newspaper theft that occurred during last year’s Student Senate elections, to the vacant vice president position that was to be voted on at the meeting.

Many students in attendance were members of the OU Student Union, which pushed Senate to open up the previously internal vote for the replacement vice president. Student Union members drew attention to issues being discussed at the Board of Trustees meetings scheduled for today and Friday. During these meetings, the board will be voting on topics such as guaranteed tuition.

Honors Tutorial College Senator Allie Erwin and Student Union co-founder Jacob Chaffin both renounced their candidacy to become the replacement vice president, citing ethical concerns about joining a body that they claimed was institutionally flawed.

“I cannot in good conscience be elected onto a body of government that does not believe in democracy,” Chaffin said. “There are those who want to empower students. I don’t want to be their voice. I want to give them voice.”

Budget Chair Adam Brown also withdrew his candidacy after being elected treasurer to fill the vacancy left by LaForest, who abruptly resigned his office in an emotional letter to President Anna Morton. LaForest named Senate infighting and bullying as reasons for his exit. Citing concerns about program funding and ongoing money management, Senate voted to immediately replace LaForest instead of waiting for a vote.

In student speak outs, students from a variety of backgrounds expressed their support or dismay toward Senate’s behavior and decisions.

Senator Carter Phillips defended Senate, drawing attention toward its various accomplishments and successful programming. He said the body was not irrelevant, and stating its irrelevance only serves to reinforce that point.

“I know how hard each and every one of you works to bring character to this campus,” Phillips said. “Every time you are told that this body is irrelevant, I ask you to remember what this body has accomplished.

Higgins defended her fiancé, former Vice President Amrit Saini, after derogatory tweets he directed toward The New Political were used as an example of Senate’s supposed lack of professionalism. This preceded her resignation, in which she cited Senate culture as the reason for her exit.

“Student Senate this year is not what I signed up for,” Higgins said. “After four years, this is the first year where I am disgusted and embarrassed by the members of this Senate.”

After hearing student speak outs, College of Osteopathic Medicine Senator Matt Gusler led the discussion on how to go about postponing and opening the election of a new vice president to the student body.

Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi ended the meeting with his executive report in which he congratulated Senate and the students in attendance for having a civil conversation about the issues at hand. Lombardi also lamented LaForest’s exit by recalling the phone conversation he had with the former treasurer before his resignation.

“The phrase he kept repeating was, ’Dr. Lombardi, I just don’t understand why people would be so mean to each other,’ ” Lombardi said, quoting LaForest during his resignation.

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