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Graduate Student Senate takes steps to separate from Student Senate

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Graduate Student Senate Photo by William Meyer

The Senate wishes to be the sole representative body for graduates and to be autonomous and separate from Student Senate.

Graduate Student Senate unanimously enacted a resolution Tuesday to start the process of amending its constitution to reflect its break with Student Senate.

The proposed amendment is a direct result of a resolution passed by GSS last year, which declared GSS the sole, official voice of graduate students at Ohio University. The resolution also states GSS will no longer recognize Student Senate as a representative for the voice of graduate students.

Currently, GSS has four executive positions: president, vice president, vice president for communication and vice president for finance. The amendment denotes only the president and vice president as executive officers. However, the amendment leaves room for the appointment of executive staff.

In accordance with its constitution, Senate will hold a second vote on the amendment. If it passes with a two-thirds majority, the amendment will be ratified.

GSS President Maria Modayil said the resolution was sent to Student Senate, and the issue has been discussed between the two Senates over the course of the semester.

“I had a meeting with them last week, on Monday, and we talked about this,” Modayil said. “And one of the things that they mentioned at that meeting was they wanted us to demonstrate the benefit for them — or us — leaving their body,” she said. 

She added she would not be opposed to giving Student Senate a presentation regarding the benefits of GSS becoming autonomous, but believes the GSS constitution has enough stipulations already to allow for a partnership between the two bodies.

“Funding is at the heart of the conversation,” Senator Emeritus Daniel Williams said. “We are all spending money to come to this institution, and that money is going into a pot that undergraduates have discretionary control over. This resolution, if ratified, will shatter the illusion that graduate students have control over our money — we do not.”

GSS also enacted a resolution to provide feedback to the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed Title IX changes. The proposed changes only require schools to respond to formal complaints of sexual harassment on school grounds or school sponsored events.

“Overall our issues with this is that it puts more protection in for assailants rather than survivors, and when these cases are brought to court, it could have various detrimental health effects for survivors who are supposedly going to face their assailants in the courtroom,” Rachel Stroup, the commissioner for women’s affairs, said.

She said that if these rules were in place when two Ohio U students accused an English professor of sexual misconduct last year, the two women would not have been able to take their case to court since the incident occurred off-campus.

Stroup said the changes would be counter-intuitive to the purpose of Title IX. If sexual harassment is defined in a very specific way, it does not promote an equally inclusive educational environment, she said.

If enacted, the changes will redefine sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.”

In other business, GSS enacted a resolution to pay for an annual membership fee to the National Association of Graduate Professional Students, a student-run organization that advocates for the improvement of graduate and professional education in the U.S.

Senate also voted to condemn House Bill 565, an extension of the Heartbeat Bill, which would ban access to abortion following the detection of a fetal heartbeat and could lead to women who receive abortions and their medical providers being punished with life-sentences or even the death penalty. GSS will send a statement condemning the bill to other Ohio schools and state representatives.

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