The Ohio University Student Union held its first general assembly meeting in Schoonover Center on Thursday, providing an opportunity for presenters, both outside and within the union, to voice concerns on a diverse range of topics.
The meeting commenced with facilitator Tyler Barton, a founding member of the Student Union in 2012 and the current residential director in Brown Hall.
Barton began with a brief statement about the Student Union’s history and mission, placing emphasis on the Union’s desire to “fight for [the] student’s interest rather than to merely ask nicely and advocate in the face of administration who is very dead-set on pursing their own interest.
Following the introduction, eight presenters were allotted five minutes each to explain their advocacy and attempt to garner as much union support as possible. The topics presented encompassed social and environmental concerns, educational demands and agricultural advocacy.
Students Daniel Kington and Rachel Lewis began the presentations with the “Real Food Challenge,” a campaign whose mission is to introduce local, ecologically sound and humanely cultivated food to Ohio University’s campus. The second presenter, Matthew Roberts, representing Ohio University Climate Action Now (OUCAN), voiced concerns over OU’s wealth and energy, proposing to cut fossil fuel use and attempt to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
Presenting on a similar issue, Emma-Holman Smith and Grant Stover, members of the Sierra Student Coalition, discussed fossil fuel divestment and an exhilarating climate change that could be prevented with the use of clean energy. Delving into social and financial issues with the University, Student Union member Bobby Walker presented concerns on the University’s endowment, advocating for raised awareness on university spending while encouraging divestment from harmful industries including private prisons.
Representatives of Fuck Rape Culture, Rachel Baker and Sasha Gough proposed working with the grassroots campaign to provide better education for OU staff members, a better alert system and transparency to eradicate rape culture on campus. Presenter Keelan O’Sullivan promoted a similar topic, wishing to pursue a campus-wide sexual violence study to gather in-depth information on the wheres, whys and hows ingrained at the roots of campus rape culture.
Also, Olivia Wallace and fellow members of BLAC, or Black Life Action Coalition, discussed the formation of a cultural competency classes to “empower students to participate in the collective transformation of our world.” This proposal would include the inception of a mandatory freshman class to encourage discussion on racism and sexism.
Casi Arnold, a representative for the classified staff union across campus, along with various student workers came together to introduce the possibility of forming a student worker unionization. Arnold explains that worker unionization would empower students to make choices regarding educational accessibility, worker wages and emphasize to administration that “this is our campus, and we run it.”
After the final presentation, the student union meeting opened up a 45 minute discussion and debate, using a “stack” method for union members to dissect the information presented and encourage student participation.
Merges included bringing together fossil fuel divestment with awareness for a socially responsible endowment and campus wide sexual violence study with Fuck Rape Culture and cultural competency classes.
Following the debate, union members and meeting attendees were given the opportunity to vote on which issues they felt should receive the most attention from the student union.
The voting results determined that the student worker unionization, campus wide sexual violence as a component of cultural competency and a socially responsible endowment in regard to fossil fuel divestment were among the three issues the student union will support this semester.
To focus on narrowing these issues and to form effective campaign strategies, the union will break off into specified subcommittees and continue to meet every Thursday in Ellis 111. This was the first of the three general assemblies hosted by the student union this semester, providing prospective new members with a look into the type of work and passion the student union aims to project.
“I really enjoyed listening in on the first student union meeting. Clearly these students are serious about the issues they support and I will definitely consider becoming a member,” says freshman art student and first time student union attendee Gabbi Vallota. “Clearly these students are serious about the issues they support and I will definitely consider becoming a member.”