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Student Senate members listen to ideas presented by leaders of Ohio University student organizations during a town hall meeting on Oct. 22. (FILE)

Student Senate: Members pass bill urging support for sexual assault survivors

Ohio University Student Senate members passed a bill urging support for sexual assault survivors and campus prevention resources at Wednesday’s meeting.

At-large Sen. Kaitlyn Booher was the primary sponsor for the bill and wanted Student Senate to push the university to work against sexual violence.

Student Senate was working with the university to create banners that would hang on around the university during the “red zone period.” That period — the first six weeks of the semester — is believed to be the most common time for sexual assault to occur on campus. Based on data from 2016-2018, OU had the third-highest number of sexual assault reports compared to other Ohio Mid-American Conference universities 

The banners would be double-sided with the front portraying a short message in support of survivors, such as “We Support Survivors” and “We are Here for You.” The messages would be in English, Cantonese, Spanish, Arabic, Thai, Swahili and Indonesian. Booher said the languages were chosen based on student recommendations.

The back side would provide information regarding university resources and ways to contact them, such as the Survivor Advocacy Program, the OU Police Department, and the Office of Equity Civil Rights and Compliance.

Sorority and Fraternity Life Sen. Mallory Golski was the president of the Women’s Panhellenic Association during the Fall Semester when sorority and fraternity houses hung up banners in support of sexual assault survivors. She said the banners would be better in a more public space than on streets that not all students live or walk.

“Those are bedsheets that have acrylic paint that are going to get destroyed in the wind and the rain,” Golski said. “To have these banners up is a more permanent fixture on our campus and a more public space.”

On March 27, Student Senate representatives were informed that the initiative would no longer be fully supported by the university due to concerns about declining enrollments and apprehensions that the banners would cause. 

Student Senate plans to call upon university leadership to further their commitment to sexual assault prevention through the bill.

A copy of the bill will be sent OU President Duane Nellis, Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina, Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones, Senior Director of Communication Services Carly Leatherwood and Senior Director of Marketing Services Mark Krumel.

Members also passed a bill regarding the leasing of 31 Coventry Lane and the subsequent investigations by the State of Ohio.

In 2015, then-OU President Roderick McDavis moved to the property, which was owned by John Wharton, owner and broker of Ohio Reality. McDavis moved there after a bat startled his wife, Deborah, leading her to fall and break her foot.

The Inspector General’s Office of the State of Ohio released a full report of its investigation in fall 2018. 

In February, it was found that Wharton improperly billed the university over $20,000. The university has not yet responded to the report, according to the bill. 

Senate’s bill requested that the university be actively and publicly updating the five senates on the status of recovering the money Wharton owes the university, as well as see that the entirety of this money is recovered as soon as possible. Members also ask that Board of Trustees conduct itself in a more ethical and responsible manner in the future to prevent “an appearance of impropriety,” according to the bill.

Wharton had offered a “conditional $100,000 donation contemporaneously to his negotiations with the OU Real Estate Department about a lease/purchase agreement for a property he owned,” according to the bill. The report also found there was cause to believe that an appearance of impropriety occurred within these instances.

A copy of the bill will be sent to sent to Nellis, Hall-Jones, Pina, Vice President for Finance and Administration Deb Shaffer, the Office of Real Estate Management and the Athletic Department.

Student Senate also heard two presentations: one from Student Trustee Faith Voinovich and Austin McClain, and one from Athens Mayor Steve Patterson.

Voinovich and McClain provided a recap of the Board of Trustees meetings from March.

Patterson spoke about Athens Beautification Day and the International Street Fair. He also asked Senate members what he could do to help them, saying he wants to be a resource for them.

He also spoke about some of his plans for Athens, such as the pilot compost program, the Richland Avenue bridge project and the possibility of e-scooters in the city. 

“As I do plan to stay on as mayor of Athens for many years to come, I do have a 12-year vision that I am four years in — but that may require your help, too,” Patterson said. 

Student Senate passed three resolutions to update chapters of the rules and procedures for the International Student Affairs Commission, the University Life Commission and LGBTQA+ Affairs Commission.

Another resolution will appoint Isabela Gibson as a commissioner to the Black Affairs Commission.

Members passed a resolution to purchase supplies for tabling at the International Street Fair on Saturday, which will cost about $65. A resolution was also passed to pay for airport shuttle transportation for a speaker John Francis, which will cost $250. 


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