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Graduate Student Senate splits from Student Senate

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Graduate Student Senate Photo by William Meyer

GSS also requested direct access to their annual funding from the Office of Finance.

Graduate Student Senate ratified an amendment to its constitution Tuesday to split from Student Senate.

GSS has been in conversation with Student Senate about the separation throughout the year. Senators have expressed concerns about resource equity with Student Senate, namely control over funding, and GSS’ autonomy from Student Senate because of overlap between the two senate’s constitutions.

Last year, GSS enacted a resolution that no longer recognized Student Senate as a voice for graduate students. The resolution passed Tuesday officially amended the body’s constitution.

To amend the GSS constitution, an amendment must get a two-thirds majority vote on its first reading. On second reading, the amendment is ratified with another two-thirds vote.

GSS also condemned House Bills 608 and 119, which will make it more difficult for food-insecure Ohioans to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

SNAP is a federal program designed to provide food to those without access to essential nutrition. The 2016 Community Health Assessment from the Ohio Department of Health considers 20 percent of Athens County to be food insecure and reports that 14 percent of county residents receive SNAP.

House Bill 119 would require SNAP applicants to complete more stringent documentation and also privatizes the collection of said documentation to combat fraud in the program. The bill was passed last year by the Ohio House of Representatives and is up for consideration by the Ohio Senate.

“The collection of this documentation can be done through a third party, according to the bill,” Rickey Larkin Jr., housing commissioner for Graduate Affairs, said. “So it’s essentially creating more work for the government and using private companies to fulfill that work, which kinda funnels taxpayer money into private corporations.”

House Bill 608 is still being discussed in committee. If passed, House Bill 608 would prevent the state from applying for waivers to void the requirement that able-bodied adults without dependents work 80 hours a month to continue receiving SNAP benefits.

GSS is concerned that these bills will negatively affect the costs of living for graduate students who receive SNAP. Senate was unable to cite the number of Ohio University graduate students on SNAP.

Senate also endorsed a potential partnership between Ohio U and Rent College Pads, a website designed to help students find off-campus housing.

Rent College Pads is seeking a partnership with Ohio U to create a free-of-charge website for students in exchange for the university’s endorsement as a off-campus listings provider.  

Twelve years ago, GSS supported the creation of such a website to help students find housing, but the project was scrapped due to budget constraints.

Lastly, Senate requested that the Office of Finance move GSS’ account to the Campus Involvement Center in order to make it easier for the body to view and access their funds.

Currently, the treasurer has to make a request to the Graduate College to access and view their funds.

“I’m able to go into the Oracle system that the university uses and go see what other accounts are doing,” Department Representative for Accountancy Jack Nece said. “I’m able to see what kind of donuts they’re buying or pizza they’re buying for certain events, but I can’t see our own.”

Nece said that being able to see how other student organizations — like Student Senate — allocates funds, but not being able to see where GSS is spends money is an overarching problem.

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