The wind was howling Thursday evening outside of Baker University Center and so were Ohio University students.
A protest rally coordinated through the Ohio University Student Union encouraged students and organizations to join in solidarity and raise awareness for various university issues.
Representatives from student social groups including Bobcats for Bernie, Fuck Rape Culture, Sierra Student Coalition, Real Food Challenge, Black Lives Action Coalition and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People joined in a march down Morton Hill to protest, rally and unite.
Chanting phrases such as “The students united will never be defeated,” “Whose university? Our University,” and “Brick by brick, wall by wall, we will make the system fall,” the march could be heard throughout a large portion of campus.
Once the march reached an area outside of new residence halls Tanaka, Luchs, Sowle and Carr on South Green, members of multiple student groups spoke out about their cause.
Among these speakers included freshman Jasmyn Pearl, a representative for the NAACP, who discussed cultural competency and racism on campus.
“After being called a n***** by her neighbor and alerting the housing department, a current OU student is finally meeting with a campus representative to discuss what happened a month later,” Pearl said.
After addressing this issue, Pearl went on to explain that “We the students of the NAACP are working toward improving the cultural climate at Ohio University, and we need your support.”
Members of the advocacy group, the Real Food Challenge, Daniel Kington and Rachel Lewis spoke in favor of introducing the cultivation of local and ecologically sound food onto Ohio University’s campus.
“We as students have the power to transition our university into supporting real food, so we will guide the university to 20 percent real food by 2020,” Kington said.
Bobby Walker, a student union representative and junior studying women’s gender and sexuality studies, began her presentation on prison divestment by reading a list of African Americans killed unjustly by police officers. Discussing OU’s financial involvement with prisons, Walker said, “Ohio University has hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into prisons. It means that Ohio University’s hands are dirtied with the blood of millions of people caught in the system.”
Further explaining her ideology for coming together and questioning where the university is investing its money, Walker encouraged students to “Get together, organize, and act collectively.”
“We need structural change, systemic change. Individually we’re powerless, but together we are so fucking powerful. Together we can swallow them whole, and break the whole system down,” Walker said.
Addressing environmental concerns, members of the Student Sierra Coalition spoke out in recognition of fossil fuel divestment to encourage the university to reinvest its money in clean energy.
OU junior and Wildlife Conservation Biology major Danielle Butts stated, “I feel like a lot of students don’t realize how much money we’ve invested in fossil fuel companies, and I don’t think a lot of faculty know that this is something we care about. I think getting that recognition out there is the first start.”
Appealing to several university students, members of the campus political group Bobcats for Bernie discussed crippling financial debt and how to repair your credit, while student workers rallied for job unionization and called for collective action.
Student union member and junior Ryan Powers discussed the administration’s response to prevent the unionization of workers at the university’s call center and advocated the importance in having an assembled voice.
“We are agents in this world capable of changing it, and that ability is heightened when we act collectively and organize accordingly,” Powers said.
In a final statement, Powers chanted, “We want fossil fuels off this campus. We want our money divested from prisons. We want sexual assault to be meaningfully addressed, and we want a fair wage, and we want the ability to fight for a fair wage, and that’s why we’re in a Union, and that’s why we need to fight together.”
After nearly an hour of speeches and student advocacy, protesters joined together to end the rally in a “solidarity clap,” leaving South Green with a sense of harmonious unity.
Discussing the importance in holding the rally, co-founder of the student union in 2012, current graduate student and a leading figure during the event, Jacob Chaffin said, “A lot of students come to OU, I believe very excited and a little bit glossy eyed about the university. We have these beautiful dorm buildings, it’s very exciting to be here, and it’s a great, lovely place. But what we’re trying to do is to kind of lift the veil for students, so holding demonstrations like this shows people what’s really going on here. Our goal is to not just make student activists, but also citizens who, when they graduate, are constantly challenging systems.”
This was the first protest held by the student union during the 2015 fall semester. The union continues to meet every Thursday at 8 p.m. in Ellis room 111 to further address the issues presented at the rally.