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Student Senate implores Ohio U to recognize classified staff union

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Student Senate. Photo by William Meyer.

Student Senate urged Ohio University to voluntarily recognize the unionization of its classified staff, which includes clerical, library and administrative assistants, at the body’s Wednesday night meeting.

Melanie Quolke, the chair-elect of Classified Senate — a governing body that represents classified staffers — discussed the staff’s role and its motivations for unionizing.

She said that higher wages and better health benefits are central to the union’s mission. 

“As a classified employee, I make about $34,000 a year, and I lose about $10,000 to health care and taxes,” Quolke said. “So I put $24,000 in my pocket from my annualized salary — that doesn’t allow me to apply for food stamps, even though I generally need them.”

Quolke, whose family unit includes a husband and a dog, said that most classified employees have larger sized families and up to four children.

“Voluntary recognition means that a group of employees has gotten enough cards signed and submitted to the state capital or secretary of state to form a union,” Quolke said. “Essentially, what we’re saying is that we have those cards. (The university) could just voluntarily recognize us now and say that you guys have your union, and we can go straight into contract negotiations.”

“Being voluntarily recognized allows us to start a bit quicker versus us having to wait until later in the year in November to get stuff done,” she added. 

The resolution passed with one member of the body, Zach Whetstone, voting against it. 

Later in the evening, Chief Justice Casey Hall-Jones gave a rundown of the Senate’s election process.

To apply for a Student Senate election, one must receive 25 signatures from the student population. For executive positions, applicants must get 75 signatures. Candidates are limited to $1,000 per election ticket and additionally can only use 20% of those funds for flyers, posters and pamphlets. Violators, he said, could be removed from the election process.

He mentioned the difference between active and passive campaigning and said that neither practice is allowed between Feb. 27 and March 11. 

Passive campaigning exists to allow time for candidates to build their platforms. This part of the election process starts March 11 and ends March 17, when active campaigning begins. 

“(Passive campaigning) is a way to start the campaign mechanisms without hitting full-steam and also not extend into active campaigning,” Hall-Jones said. “You open the kitchen before you open the front door.”

Active campaigning, which includes information drives, chalking, advertising and debates, lasts from March 17 to election day on March 31.

“Generally, active campaigning is the only time where you are allowed to be actively engaging with any other members of the populace (which includes) any sort of information drives and debates,” Hall-Jones said.

Jenny Klein, assistant dean of student persistence and success, discussed the Academic Achievement Center’s accomplishments this year.

She said that the center this year increased walk-in tutoring availability, added tutors for nursing classes, increased its customer service and added Sunday hours from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The center also implemented a new initiative called “15 to Finish,” which notifies students who are enrolled with less than 14 credit hours. The initiative’s name comes from the university’s recommendation to take 15 credit hours per semester to graduate in four years.

In other business, the Senate approved funding for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) walk. NEDA is a nonprofit that supports individuals affected by eating disorders, according to its website.

The Senate also approved funding for the licensing of the film “Unslut: A Documentary Film.” According to the film’s website, it “explores the causes and manifestations of sexual shaming in North America and offers immediate and long-term goals for personal, local, and institutional solutions.”

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