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Student Senate President Megan Handle applauds as the first speaker of the night steps up to the podium during the Student Senate meeting in Walter Hall at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, Nov. 8, 2023.

Student Senate provides platform for students to voice, act upon opinions

Behind the scenes at Ohio University, the Student Senate represents a student body of over 28,000 students and enacts change on campus. The Senate’s goal is to make students feel heard and empowered at OU. However, many students still don’t seem to know that the Senate handles a large array of issues, many regarding the university and the student population. 

Student Senate President Megan Handle was elected by the student body last spring to serve as the president this year after running in its formal election. Handle acts as the voice of student concerns to the Ohio University president and administration regularly.

The Senate has grown with 50 students partaking in student-run activities, campaigns and fundraisers that draw attention to current issues and campus concerns. Handle said if students choose to partake in Senate, they are required to interview for a spot in it to ensure that each student will represent the university well. 

Student Senate Treasurer Reagan Farmer deals with the financial side of Senate and assists Handle in directing Senate. Farmer said seeking out new members was a priority for the leadership team because freshmen tend to be eager to find ways to be involved on campus.

“As soon as Megan and I and Vice President Davis got on campus, our goal was to recruit as many first-year students as possible because that’s really when they kind of find their niche and what they’re interested in,” Farmer said. 

Student Senate focuses on issues such as housing and residence, academic issues, course offerings and gender equality on campus. Handle said a lot of work goes into change due to proposed bills from different students.

“We had one in support of a bereavement policy for students, so when a close family member dies a student can have time off,” Handle said. ”We did one in support of changing the LGBT Center to the Pride Center as well as other events.”

Problems that students feel they are faced with are brought to the Senate, but not as often as the Senate would like. Farmer said students feel change won’t occur if they voice their concerns because so many students are on campus. 

“I think that students sometimes don't understand how slow change happens at institutions of higher education,” Farmer said.  “There’s so many avenues that the issue has to be pastored through but even if you don’t see tangible change happening, it’s happening.”

Certain initiatives, such as The Period Project or Safer Sex bill, that the Senate has worked on have made an impact on OU students, even though many students had doubts that change would even occur. Handle said after being a Women Affairs Commissioner in the Senate, she realized she wanted to take on more of a leadership role as president and work with a larger administration.

“I had people take me more seriously and accept my proposals,” Handle said. 

Handle’s Period Project led to the installation of several menstrual product vending machines for menstruating students to use across campus since she found it was impacting academic success. Handle said she has been able to develop her leadership skills and help others in the Senate do the same.

Student organizations and campus life funding are regulated under the Senate, making the Senate that much more vital to the OU community. Farmer said handling the funds as the treasurer and budgeting out money for all the organizations is a challenge, but it’s essential.

“No Senate means no Senate Appropriations Committee, which means pretty much zero organization funding or programming,” Farmer said. “There’s a lot of stipulations to make sure student organizations are using their money right, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s super important.”

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