Student Senate: Members in favor of voting rights for OU student trustees

Student Senate wants two more voting students on campus even though those two have argued in the past that they don’t need a vote.

Senate unanimously passed a resolution to support Ohio House Bill 377, legislation guaranteeing voting rights for student trustees. It was first introduced in November by state Reps. Mike Duffey, R-21th, and Michael Stinziano, D-25th.

“Ohio University Student Senate supports enabling student trustees at state universities in Ohio to be actively involved in the decision-making processes that directly impact the academic success and university experience of themselves and fellow students,” the resolution states. “Therefore be it resolved that Ohio University Student Senate fully supports and urges the passage of House Bill 377.”

In addition to giving student trustees a vote on all trustee decisions, the bill would allow student trustees to attend executive sessions and voice their opinions — something OU already allows, current OU student trustees Danielle Parker and Allison Arnold told senate last week.

Parker, a junior studying public relations, said she is neither for nor against HB 377.

“I’m definitely not opposed to trustee voting rights at OU. It’s just not necessary,” Parker said. “However, I do keep in mind the experiences of student trustees throughout the state. I’m not opposed to the bill, but if student-trustee voting rights were granted, there would definitely be implications.”

Although Arnold supported voting rights while she was in the running for her current student-trustee position, she later said her time on the board made her realize that she doesn’t need voting rights.

Members of OU’s Board of Trustees said at their November meeting that OU student trustees don’t need a vote.

“We question what the purpose of that legislation really is,” Trustee Gene Harris said at the November meeting. “We already use (student trustees’) feedback in making decisions. Their voices are sought and heard.”

Former student trustee Kyle Triplett, now Student Senate president, has been consistently against voting rights. When he ran for Student Senate president on the RSVP ticket last spring, Triplett emphasized that voting rights for student trustees are unnecessary.

“I think the resolution approved speaks a lot about this body’s initiative to ensure student representatives across the state have a voice,” Triplett said. “I still personally think that it’s a tough position, but I’m completely supportive of whatever the board decides.”

Although senate Treasurer Chris Wimsatt and Vice President Roger Jones voted in support of the resolution, Triplett did not vote, as he only votes in the event of a tie, Jones said.

Primary sponsor of the resolution Taylor Abbott, senate’s state and federal affairs commissioner, agreed that student trustees at OU already have some of the privileges the bill would offer; however, its statewide implications make it important, he said.

“We don’t necessarily need it, but we are looking down the road for future trustees,” Abbott said. “We’re looking ahead and ensuring students can voice their opinions and not be cast aside.”

At the meeting’s Student Speakout session, four students voiced their opinions on the resolution concerning HB 377.

“I really hope you vote in support of this,” said Sarah Williams, a senior studying political science. “My own opinion has gone back and forth, but we should have a voice on Board of Trustees. I hope you all vote for it. This is for the students to speak out.”

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