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Student Senate president defends vote for increasing tuition during meeting

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With little on the agenda for Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting, President Gabby Bacha took time to address criticism of her vote to advocate for increasing tuition for incoming freshmen students.

The Ohio University Budget Planning Council, on which Bacha has a seat, voted to recommend a tuition hike during a Dec. 11, 2015 meeting by a vote of 13-2, with one person absent. The increase would include a 1.7 percent increase for in-state students, a 5.5 percent increase for out-of-state students, a 3.5 percent increase in room costs and a 2.5 percent increase in meal plans. Graduate Student Senate president and Democratic candidate for Ohio’s 94th district seat Carl E. Smith III and Faculty Senate finance and facilities committee chair Joe McLaughlin were the only two members to vote against the increase.

Bacha’s vote has been criticized mainly by those against any sort of tuition increase, particularly the Ohio University Student Union.

“Student Senate failed us. All the official avenues failed us. Worse than fail us, years of tuition hikes have proven that these structures were never meant to help students in the first place,” a Student Union post on Facebook on Dec. 11 said. “When no one will fight for our interests, the only solution is for us to fight for ourselves.”

“There are many economic factors and benefits that come from the increase,” Bacha said during the president’s report. “So when it came time for this vote, I really did my homework. I looked at what other universities were doing, I looked at our past and how we leveled increases in the past. I also sat down with a number of people in the university to kind of really get a comprehensive background on what I was voting on. And I will say it wasn’t an easy decision, but I am confident in this decision.”

Bacha also said she is open to talking to anyone who has disagreements with her and will respect differing viewpoints.

Interim Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones announced during the meeting that the university would host an additional Campus Conversations event in the near future response to the defacing of a Black Lives Matter display on OU’s graffiti wall.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t understand the term and the slogan (Black Lives Matter), and they feel that by saying ‘All Lives Matter,’ people are being very positive,” Hall-Jones said when describing the event. “What people don’t understand sometimes is that Black Lives Matter is about the feeling that black folks aren’t included in ‘all lives.’ We want to have an open conversation on why people get offended by it and why it’s important on this campus to have this conversation.”

Vice President Jared Ohnsman gave a presentation during the meeting to introduce a new point system to keep track of the attendance of Senate members. In addition to roll call during general body meetings, Senate members will have to swipe their student ID cards for every formal Senate meeting.

“We’re going to be focusing a lot on attendance this semester because last semester’s attendance has been really poor for a lot of people, especially senators that are required to be at every meeting,” Ohnsman said.

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