As Student Senate prepares to hold a referendum for the first time in its history to decide its official stance on a state bill, members of the senate met with concerned students Thursday to explain the process and educate them on the issue.
The referendum will be on the subject of state Senate Bill 199, a measure which, among other things, allows students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses if the school's governing body approves. The referendum will allow students to have part of the say in Student Senate's official stance — an unprecedented move for the organization.
"The referendum system was put in place by last year's Student Senate," Courteney Muhl, vice president of Student Senate, told a crowd of about 20 students gathered in the Maggie Davis Room in Baker Center on Thursday night. "There may be a time where Senate comes across a decision or a stance to make to the Board of Trustees that would require way more input from the student body at large."
The meeting began with a brief explanation on Senate Bill 199 and the referendum process.
"What (Senate Bill 199) basically allows (the) Board of Trustees to do is to make a decision on concealed carry," Hannah Clouser, president of Student Senate, said. "Right now concealed carry licenses are not recognized on any university's campuses."
The referendum itself will be an online poll. If at least 50 students vote in the referendum, half the vote will go to students, and the other half will go to senate. The senate will then present the Board of Trustees with all the votes, as well as what Student Senate's stance is. The stance will be based off whichever way two-thirds of the votes swing.
After those explanations, senate members opened the floor to questions.
One major concern among students was how much power Student Senate actually had when it came to making the final decision. Clouser said the Board of Trustees could ignore them, but that trustees have sometimes listened to Student Senate in the past.
"The Board of Trustees has a lot more reason to ignore us if 10 people vote in this whereas they'll sort of be forced to listen if we have a few thousand students," Courteney added.
A second meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 17 in the Maggie Davis Room, a day before the Student Senate general body meeting held every Wednesday.
"If (students) want more information on what Senate Bill 199 is, and how the referendum process will work, I highly encourage them to come Tuesday." Clouser said. "If they want an avenue to express their opinions and let senators know how they feel on the issue, I would encourage them to come Wednesday."
Although the Wednesday meetings typically have a part known as "Student Speakout," Muhl asked students to save concerns regarding Senate Bill 199 for a later part of the meeting. Ohio University Police Chief Andrew Powers will also be present at the Wednesday meeting.
In addition to attending the Wednesday meeting, students were also told about other ways to reach out and have their voice heard, like tweeting using #OUconcealcarry. Those who wish to remain anonymous could email firstname.lastname@example.org instead and have their comments read aloud during the Wednesday meeting.
Some students who felt passionate about concealed carry felt the forum did its job of explaining how the referendum worked.
"It's very confusing ... I think it's gonna be difficult for people to understand," David Parkhill, president of OU College Republicans, said. "(The forum) was very informative."