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The Counter Opinion: Respects, Regrets and Requests for Student Senate

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The annual Ohio University Student Senate elections have concluded, and as we await the counting of the ballots, we asked our opinion writers to talk about what they hope to see from next year’s Student Senate. Contributing tonight are Charlotte Caldwell, a freshman journalism major, Katie Nolan, a sophomore environmental studies major and Tim Zelina, a junior journalism major. 

What recent actions by Student Senate do you approve of?

Charlotte: Student Senate recently passed a resolution to amend their constitution and extend representation to regional undergraduate students. This is beneficial because every student, regardless of the campus they attend, should have the same rights and the ability to have a say regarding their education. The Senate also passed a bill opposing changes to Title IX that would make it harder to investigate sexual assault cases and would narrow the scope of the definition of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault already have a hard enough time dealing with the physical and emotional toll assault takes; they don’t need something that would make it harder for them to recover.

Katie: Student Senate has done great work in terms of the Environmental Affairs Committee. They are currently in the midst of sponsoring their largest event of the year, the Environmental Justice Summit. This is especially monumental because of the committee’s goals to include all students, as well as Athens community members, across campus in the activities offered. The new Senate should be able to continue this event, as well as expand upon it in coming years.

Tim: Student Senate showed its concern for working students when they hosted the Culinary Services Union president, Dillon Barnhouse. Exploitation of working students has long been a problem in the university, and culinary services are no exception. By providing a platform for the CSU, Senate helped shine a light on problematic practices by the university. All those who work for the university, especially active students, should be adequately compensated, and I’m proud to see Senate working towards this ideal.

 

What recent actions by Student Senate do you disapprove of?

Charlotte: The feud between Student Senate and Graduate Student Senate seems unnecessary and unproductive. Both of these organizations should work together for a common goal, which should be bettering this campus for its students. They should realize that they’re not really all that different. When the insults start to be thrown, like Student Senate calling Graduate Student Senate executives “disorganized and childlike,” then it raises suspicion as to whether they have anything better to do with their time.

Katie: The discussion surrounding the Senate Appropriations Commission has been interesting and controversial. Recently, discussion has focused on a lack of increased funding for student organizations. Funding has remained stagnant since 2011, while the number of organizations on campus has increased 165% since 2009. This has resulted in a decrease in funding of 55% per organization. Student Senate should directly address this issue going forward, and find a solution toward becoming more accessible for students.

Tim: Student Senate has a tendency to rubberstamp the university’s yearly tuition increases, without much concern for why tuition needs to increase every year, and whether the university is making use of past increases. Student Senate president Maddie Sloat has done many great things for the university, but her decision to vote in favor of a student tuition increase was, in the words of The Post contributor Nick Shook, “disheartening.” Tuition is already outrageously expensive, and students will never see a reduction of their financial burden if they don’t take a stand against future gouging.

 

What actions do you hope to see Student Senate take next year?

Charlotte: The students representing the Forward Ohio U campaign want there to be more awareness of what Student Senate does, which is valuable because some of the things Student Senate decides on has a direct impact on many students, like funding for student organizations. Increasing mental health resources sounds like a big duty to fulfill, but, if they can pull it off, it could be useful for those in the student body who feel like they have nowhere to turn when they are facing tough issues. There should also be more support for student organizations, especially since the money to fund them is tight and some smaller student organizations may not have enough recognition on campus to make it to the next year.

Katie: Ideally, the next Student Senate will not hesitate to tackle issues regarding sustainability. With the recently introduced reusable to-go boxes at dining halls and the continued Environmental Justice Summit, there has been significant progress made within the last few years. However, there is definitely still more to be done. Student Senate should support the initiative to divest from the fossil fuel industry, which is an issue that has been supported by many students for several years. Senate should also spend time supporting more ways that students can get involved with sustainability on campus, no matter who they are or what their major is. Sustainability is an issue that affects everyone, and it should be something that anyone can become involved in. On the Forward Ohio U ticket, there are many candidates that support environmental progress.

Tim: The next Student Senate needs to take action to increase visibility to their efforts. I attended the ‘debates’ (which were more like town halls due to the lack of competitive races), and it was stunning how few people outside of Student Senate or student media attended, or even knew about these events. What is the point of Student Senate if half the students don’t know they exist, and if the other half doesn’t care? Connecting with the community is a task Student Senate has fallen short on recently, and I hope the next year’s Senate will correct this shortfall.

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