Home Campus Student Senate urges university to renew commitment to sexual assault project

Student Senate urges university to renew commitment to sexual assault project

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Senators expressed disappointment with the university’s decision to end its support for a project that would create banners in support of sexual assault survivors

Student Senate passed a bill Wednesday night asking the university to continue support for creating new banners in support of sexual assault survivors as a continued effort to address sexual assault on campus.

Student Senate discussed the bill at length after the university removed its full support for the project at the end of March. Ohio U faced intense scrutiny after an increase in sexual assault reports beginning last fall.

“It’s not a secret that sexual assault is a pervasive problem on college campuses,” Student Senate Vice President Hannah Burke said. “It’s not special at Ohio University, although OU has been getting a lot of press this past year.”

The banners, if created, would contain messages of support for sexual assault survivors and display resources available to them. They would also be multilingual because of university demographics and input from minority groups on campus.

Student Senate intended to hang the banners in time for Bobcat Student Orientation in June 2019 and keep them in place through the first six weeks of the fall semester, called the “red zone.”

The university cited concerns with the continued decline in enrollment as a reason for withdrawing their support. Ohio U has struggled to increase enrollment numbers in recent academic years.

“To say that I was disappointed in the removal of support for this project is a bit of an understatement,” University Life Commissioner Eva Holtkamp said. “Survivors are more than statistics. They are people who deserve to be supported by the institutions they are a part of.”

Student Senate President Maddie Sloat characterized the university’s current position on the project as ambiguous — while they did withdraw their backing of the project, there were uncertainties as to where the university actually stood.

Multiple members of the body touched on their own experiences with sexual assault, expressing their full support for the banners and their purpose.

One member of Student Senate, a tour guide, explained that sexual assault on campus is a concern multiple parents of prospective students have brought up on tours.

“It’s really important to see that visual support of survivors,” Burke said. “We’re really hoping that the university listens very closely to what we passed tonight and that decisions are changed a little bit.”

The body also passed a bill in an effort to bring light to a recent finding by the Ohio Auditor of State, which revealed a local landlord owed the university more than $20,000 after improperly billing the school for improvements to his property.

John Wharton, a landlord and frequent university donor, disputed the finding. His lawyer argued that the university actually owes Wharton money.

Former Ohio University President Roderick McDavis lived in Wharton’s property on Coventry Lane in the spring of 2015, after moving out of the university’s 29 Park Place. The university paid for the rent.

“I find the entire relationship to be problematic,” Parker Smith, Off-Campus Affairs commissioner and bill sponsor, said. “This is corruption and it needs to be called out.

In other business:

  • Athens Mayor Steve Patterson presented in front of the body and answered general questions about future plans for the city.
  • Student Trustees Faith Voinovich and Austin McClain updated the body with their recent findings about funding in various areas of the university.
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