Home Campus Graduate Student Senate funds anti-sex assault coasters for Athens bars

Graduate Student Senate funds anti-sex assault coasters for Athens bars

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The Union Bar and Grill decided to call for co-owner Eric Gunn's "permanent departure" after he was accused of sexual assault on social media. Photo by Connor Perrett.

Graduate Student Senate has not said which bars will receive the coasters, but said it will direct them to bars frequented by graduate students.

Coasters detailing information about preventing sexual harassment and handling assault intervention will soon appear in Athens bars in an initiative funded by Graduate Student Senate.

The coasters, designed by the Ohio University Better Bystanders program, feature a graphic instructing bar goers to “direct, delegate and distract” if they see anyone who appears to be at risk for possible sexual harassment or assault. They also include a hotline and address for the local Survivor Advocacy program.

Better Bystanders presented the idea of these coasters to GSS in the past few weeks, and since then GSS has been seeking the correct amount of funds to assist with the project. It is currently planning to provide $339.75 for the distribution of 1,300 coasters around bars on Court Street.

These coasters will be limited to bars that are frequently visited by graduate students. These bars were determined by a recent poll to the graduate student body about what bars they most often frequent.

They are also being assisted by the Health Promotion office, specifically the Prevention and Education program, with funding for the project.

Alec Koondel, the GSS Vice President for Finance, stated that he was interested in involving GSS with a Better Bystander program because of the unique nature of this proposal, and also because of program’s past work on campus.

“We thought they’ve been doing a great job on campus,” Koondel said. “Their presence has really been known on campus for the last year or two. I think this initiative is extremely beneficial and we thought it would be a fun and creative idea to have this idea out on Court Street.”

The proposition did not pass its first vote, due to some initial senator concerns. Some senators expressed issue with GSS providing a majority of the funding for the project, as well as with the limited focus to just graduate student focused establishments.

Koondel stated in the meeting that the current GSS budget could adequately provide majority funding for the project. The proposal for this initiative stated that “it is in the best interest of GSS to support University events that enhance the graduate student experience” as reasoning for presenting the initiative specifically to the graduate student body.

After some discussion with sponsors of the resolution regarding these concerns, the resolution passed with a majority vote.

Koondel remains optimistic about the potential results of the change, even if GSS never gets to see the exact impact the coasters may have on the graduate student community.

“If people know about it, that’s amazing, but there might be the stories we never hear about with bystander intervention that happens in an establishment,” Koondel said. “Maybe it happens and we don’t hear about it, but if it happens then that’s a success.”

GSS also discussed renewing student health insurance and the executive board’s recent visit to Kent State University to visit with graduate student senates at other universities in Ohio. All of these programs and issues will be discussed in future meetings.

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