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Students demand a say, block bus

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About 40 students protested at Walter Hall Thursday afternoon, blocking Board of Trustee members from boarding the bus that was to carry them from their first day of meetings to their hotel.

The Ohio University Student Union and supporters linked arms around the bus as they chanted slogans against tuition hikes and plans for a gas plant slated to replace the aging Lausche heating plant.

After beginning the protests at the Civil War Monument on College Green, protesters moved to Walter and surrounded their bus. Police attempted to to disperse the crowd, but their requests were drowned out by chants.

The Board of Trustees met Thursday to discuss a number of items including the guaranteed tuition program and building improvements, such as the replacement for the Lausche heating plant and the construction of new South Green residence halls. They are to vote on those matters in a general body meeting today.

An hour into the protest, the trustees agreed to meet with three members of the Student Union to discuss their concerns after the general body meeting today.

“I figure at the very least it will be a way for the union to deliver (our) demands,” said Tyler Barton, a member of the Student Union.

Among the protesters’ demands were a tuition freeze, no bonuses or raises for President Roderick McDavis, more money for diversity scholarships, cutting the guaranteed tuition program and abort the gas plant. The Student Union began protesting at trustee meetings in the spring of 2012.

“I just transferred here from OSU and I was disgusted to find out that, with tuition at record highs, the president of our university is getting a raise while people are struggling to get into college,” said freshman Nathan Sulecki, a protester. Tuition has risen annually since the 2010-11 school year, with an increase of 1.6 percent this last year.

The guaranteed-tuition program would set an incoming student’s tuition, room and board at a single rate, so the student would pay the same amount for tuition each year. Supporters of the program maintain the program will increase transparency and predictability, enabling students to plan their finances better. The Student Union calls the program a “guaranteed-tuition hike,” meaning that tuition will still increase, but for each incoming freshman class.

Students also held signs calling for “no gas plant.”

“We’re all here fighting for shared governance of the university, but one of the things that’s coming up in the next Board of Trustees meeting is they’re voting on a proposal for a $70 million gas plant to replace the Lausche coal plant that we’re currently getting electric and heating out of,” said Jack Spicer, a member of the Student Union and the Sierra Student Coalition, an environmental group on campus. “We’re seeing this as a step backward rather than a step forward.”

Though burning natural gas is cleaner and more efficient than burning coal, “the natural gas plant is a very slight step down,” said Caitlyn McDaniel, president of the Sierra Student Coalition and a member of the Student Union. “It’s still a fossil fuel.”

The Student Union advocates for eco-friendly alternatives to natural gas, said Ryan Powers, another protester.

The trustees will meet today at 10 a.m. to vote on various issues. They plan to meet afterwards with Student Union representatives.

“We would rather have all of the students talk to the Board of Trustees. We would rather have direct democracy,” said Jolana Watson, a Student Union member. “But the fact that they want to speak with three students, it’s a start.

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