Throughout my time in the Student Senate, I have watched the highs and lows of student representation. Today, the Student Senate has effectively shifted focus to student advocacy through the work of our current executives President Shoulders, Vice President Cooley and Treasurer Robinson. For example, they substantively advocated for a raise in student wages across campus, and we got it. Women's Affairs Commissioner Handle successfully developed legislation and a pitch to provide free menstrual products in all bathrooms on campus. In each of these instances, it took not only actively heeding students' experiences, but also forming a concrete plan of action that is informed directly by the needs of students.
One of the most important aspects of effective student advocacy is the act of listening to and communicating ideas. Administrators will often say they want to listen; however, their actions show us that our voices are not listened to, and it feels like we are attending the same diversity and inclusion town hall every single year and still no effective action is taken. The university’s actions become almost entirely performative. Because of this, students often feel ignored or unheard by those in positions of power and, in turn, believe they have no control over their academic experience. Ohio University can work to change that. We must extend opportunities for leadership development to all student leaders to build a broader coalition of student advocates.
By working together and amplifying our voices, students can bring attention to issues such as the lacking physical and psychological accessibility, mental health resources and financial support available for students and organizations. However, effective student advocacy can be very challenging; it requires support from the wider community. It is crucial for all of us to question the actions of faculty and our representatives and to support and uplift each other's voices. That means attending student-led events, volunteering our time and talents or simply listening to and amplifying the voices of other students.
In short, meeting students where they are and supporting effective student advocacy is essential for creating a more equitable community. As members of the Student Senate, we must continue to prioritize the voices and needs of our students and work together to leave Ohio University better than we found it.
Dylan DeMonte, Academic Affairs Commissioner of the Student Senate