Ohio University Student Senate hosted a town hall Wednesday, which facilitated conversations between students and administrators regarding diversity and inclusion concerns and worries about COVID-19.
Senate invited OU administrators and Athens officials to the town hall, including members of COVID Operations and Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, to speak with students about grievances students may have with the university or the city.
Both senators and students brought up concerns about discrimination they faced at OU. Some spoke about their personal experiences with discrimination and expressed that they wanted OU to do a better job educating students.
Part of the discrimination some students described involved microaggressions. OU educates first-year students about microaggressions in a class as part of their learning communities, though many students said they feel it is not enough.
A solution proposed by students was to include microaggression training in an online course before they come to campus, much like the AlcoholEDU course students are required to take. Some students also had the idea of including the proposed training as part of Bobcat Student Orientation.
Students also voiced concern about COVID-19. The university recently reduced its mask mandate, which prompted concern about if the decision is premature with students going on spring break.
Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, said the university’s decision to reduce mask requirements was based on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised and what other Ohio public universities were doing. Ice said OU will not require its students to submit a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus like it did after winter break for similar reasons.
Ice also said COVID Operations is encouraging instructors and student organizations to be mindful of immunocompromised students on campus, including by encouraging mask wearing and remote options for courses and meetings.
The meeting concluded with Senate starting to amend government documents, including its constitution and Rules and Procedures.