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Students gather in Rally for Campus Democracy

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Around 90 students from a variety of student groups from Ohio University came together in a “Rally for Campus Democracy” on Thursday.

The rally was part of a nationwide day of action in which students at colleges and universities across the U.S. partook in the Million Student March, which called for free education, a cancellation of student debt and a $15 minimum wage.

“I’m here because I’m a grad student at OU and I did my undergrad here,” said Jacob Chaffin, a graduate student in critical studies. “I’m in a lot of debt, right around the average of $28,000 of debt that Ohio University students owe when they graduate. So this is something that directly affects me.”

Students assembled in front of Baker Center at 5 p.m. Immediately following everyone’s arrival, they proceeded down Morton Hill to the tune of chants such as “This is what democracy looks like” and “Get up, get down, Athens is a union town.”

The students marched to the Side Five Amphitheater, located by the new residence halls on South Green, finishing off with the chant, “One, two, three four, fossil fuels no more, no more.”

Upon the arrival at the amphitheater, each of the groups involved had a speaker talk about issues that specifically related to them. These speakers included members of the Ohio University Student Union, the OU NAACP, Graduate Student Senate and the Student Sierra Coalition. In addition, a faculty member and the founder of Bobcats for Bernie also spoke, along with a few other presenters.

Photo by Elizabeth Chidlow.
Photo by Elizabeth Chidlow.

OU’s fossil fuel divestment movement is made up of a group of students advocating to remove the university’s endowment from fossil fuel investments.

“We are currently living in an age of climate chaos,” said Bobby Sunderhaus, a senior studying Latin American studies and a member of the Sierra Student Coalition. “A period of time that will be defined by disaster after disaster.”

Those involved with the fossil fuel divestment movement believe that the university should move away from fossil fuel energy and toward clean energy sources. Sunderhaus said other schools, such as University of Dayton, that have done this have seen no negative effect in their endowment, and in some cases schools have seen an increase in endowment returns since switching to clean energies.

Carl Edward Smith III, president of Graduate Student Senate, also came to speak to the people of the rally. Smith focused on the stipend graduate students receive from the university, noting that it was below the poverty line. This wasn’t his only concern, however.

“Athletes of Ohio University not only receive tuition waivers, they now also receive living stipends and a cost of living bonus of $365 for extra trips home and extra food,” Smith said. “It is a shame that teaching undergraduate students and conducting research labs for faculty are not worthy for some extra trips home or extra food, but moving a ball around on a field or a court is.”

Smith also indicated that in a meeting Graduate Student Senate had with OU President Roderick McDavis on Thursday morning, graduate students unanimously said they would rather not pay the General Fee and instead have that money for themselves. Smith said McDavis responded by saying graduate students should start attending athletic events.  

Photo by Olivia Miltner.
Photo by Olivia Miltner.

The rally ended with a speech by Ryan Powers, a junior studying philosophy. Powers spoke on collective power within the Student Union.

“The University of Missouri: what it took to bring down their president was collective action,” Powers said. “Their football team knew if they didn’t play that game, it would cost the university one million dollars.”

A few hours after the rally, Student Union held a meeting in Ellis Hall. At the meeting they reviewed the rally as a whole.

“I felt like we had a lot of people at the rally that brought a different energy that we haven’t had before,” said Calvin Fulton, a sophomore studying plant biology.


Kate Ansel contributed to this story.

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One Comment

  1. […] Jacob Chaffin, a graduate student in critical studies told The New Political: “I’m here because I’m a grad student at OU and I did my undergrad here. I’m in a lot of debt, right around the average of $28,000 of debt that Ohio University students owe when they graduate. So this is something that directly affects me.” [The New Political] […]

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