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Senate votes to become a direct democracy despite calls for conversation

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Student Senate voted to allow all students to have the chance to vote in Senate during Wednesday’s meeting, despite extended discussion and multiple calls to postpone the vote.

The resolution, which would go into effect in the fall, would allow any registered student who attends two general body meetings in a row to vote on resolutions via a “membership card” and a currently-installed card reader system.

“The purpose of this [resolution] is to get mass participation and a certain buy-in to students engaging in student government and making the means of governing ourselves possible and also to be organizing to hold power against an administration that isn’t listening to us,” president Megan Marzec, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said. She also said the resolution was something that Senate members were planning to introduce throughout the entire school year.

Many logistical topics were debated, including where Senate meetings would take place if the current meeting room in Walter 235 would be too small, whether a direct democracy would actually engage the student body and whether it should be a constitutional amendment. However, no amendments were made, and supporters of the resolution said that it would be up to next year’s Senate to create the details of the new rule.

Most of the debate came from whether to vote on the resolution during the meeting or push it to a later date. Those in favor of tabling the resolution argued that the resolution was made public only four hours before the meeting, and this wasn’t enough time to warrant discussion with the student body, as well as the lack of details on how it should be implemented. Meanwhile, those in favor of voting on the resolution during the current meeting argued that they were voted into office on the principle of making Senate a direct democracy, and there wouldn’t be enough time to pass the resolution if they didn’t vote on the resolution that night.

Praelo Zandonadi, vice commissioner of Academic Affairs and a supporter of tabling the resolution, argued that although Senate did need to become a direct democracy, the decision to move into a direct democracy with one resolution is “harsh” and a commission or committee would be needed to ease Senate into a direct democracy.

“I think a lot of these students would like to ask these questions if they were faced with a choice of what model to adopt,” Zandonadi said. “So I think that a commission or some sort of committee should be formed to discuss this more in-depth and then have a model proposed.”

The resolution passed by a vote of 26-11, with one senator abstaining.

Senate also passed multiple environmental resolutions, including converting the Environmental Committee into an official commission and calling for OU to divest from fossil fuels by Dec. 31, 2020. Senate also passed a resolution to shorten OU’s projected date for carbon neutrality from Dec. 31, 2075 to Dec. 31, 2030.

“I think we would have enough time to [replace the energy system in 15 years], and it’s short enough that we would have to start now,” vice president Caitlyn McDaniel said. “We can’t kick the can down the road any longer, and that’s what [the administration has] been doing.”

A resolution was passed to condemn the Ohio University Foundation’s purchase of a $1.2 million mansion for President Roderick McDavis and his wife Deborah to live in. It was passed despite complaints that the language of the resolution “hyperbolized” the situation.

“There are a lot of buildings on this campus that really need to be repaired,” Academic Affairs commissioner Jolana Ozara said. “Seigfred [Hall] is constantly flooding, there are dorms who [sic] not only have bats but also have bad heating and plumbing problems. And I think that buying a house for the president should be the least of the Board of Trustees’ concerns as far as building things.”

Senate also voted on a budget resolution to allocate $650 towards the Board of Elections, with the three co-chairs being paid $100 and the other five members being paid $50. They also voted on budget resolutions to allocate $515.66 for advertising Student Senate elections and $3,480.75 for Take Back the Night. The current Senate budget is now around $4,500, which Treasurer Zainab Kandeh said is relatively low for the current date.

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