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Graduate Student Senate reaffirms its independence from Student Senate

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Graduate Student Senate voted Tuesday evening to reaffirm its position as an autonomous and independent legislative body from Student Senate.

The resolution arrived after a similar bill passed last year, which stated that Graduate Senate (GSS) no longer recognizes Student Senate as representatives for graduate students and declared GSS as the “sole voice of graduate students within the shared governance system at (Ohio University).”

The issue of GSS autonomy stems from the lack of graduate and professional student representation on both Student Senate’s general body and the Senate Appropriations Commission, a division of Student Senate, said Brett Fredericksen, department representative for environmental and plant biology.

Graduate Senate is also concerned about the disproportionate allocation of university funds to undergraduate activities.

The bill, however, does not declare GSS independent of the university, Frederickson said.

“It’s just a point of order so that when Student Senate claims that they represent graduate students as well, if an issue comes up that graduates have an interest in that is in conflict with undergraduates, we don’t get overridden by Student Senate,” Fredericksen said.

Members also passed a resolution to form an “accessible health insurance committee.” Health insurance is mandatory for all graduate students at Ohio U, according to the resolution.

The goal of the committee is to ensure that students have access to a health insurance plan that is less expensive than the one offered by the university.

The university increased the price this year of its mandatory health insurance by 29%, which now amounts to $1,410 per semester for students, the resolution said. The large price tag places a significant financial strain on graduate students, hindering their mental and cognitive abilities, which can have a negative effect on their education.

Earlier this year, the university began allowing students to choose different health insurance plans rather than sticking with the mandatory plan.

International students, however, had difficulty finding cheaper alternative plans approved by the university because some lack familiarity with America’s healthcare system. That means they often default to the pricey university plan, according to the resolution.

Graduate students are restricted to working 20 hours per week and they are only allowed to work on-campus positions — limiting their income, the resolution said.

The body also held its first of two votes on a constitutional amendment that would remove a clause in the GSS constitution that requires all of its amendments to be approved by the Board of Trustees. 

Currently, to ratify a constitutional amendment in GSS, the amendment must receive a two-thirds vote during two separate meetings. If the amendment is approved during the second meeting, it is sent to the Board of Trustees for final approval.

Student Senate passed a similar amendment to its constitution last year, which cut the Board of Trustees from their amendment process.

Should the amendment pass, GSS’s new process to amend its constitution would start with public feedback on a newly drafted amendment, followed by a vote at two different meetings that must reach two-thirds approval.

In other business:

  • Student Senate and GSS may host a debate between Athens mayoral candidates as soon as the next meeting, GSS President Dareen Tadros said.
  • GSS swore in four new voting members to the general body: Eli Skelton, Amie Musslemen, Kelley Macek, Dina Rishmawi.
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