Student Senate signs on to Dysart fight
By Brandon Worth
Athens NEWS Campus Reporter

Ohio University Student Senate last Wednesday officially encouraged university officials to continue protection of the OU-owned Dysart Woods in Belmont County, and endorsed recent efforts by the university to ensure the ancient forest's preservation.

Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of defending Dysart Woods from the possibility of coal mining underneath the rare old trees. OU owns the surface rights to the land, about 80 miles northeast of Athens, but Alledonia-based Ohio Valley Coal Co. is seeking an Ohio Division of Mineral Resources permit to mine beneath the forest.

Last December Ohio University hired Athens environmental attorney Robert Shostak to investigate legal matters surrounding Ohio Valley Coal's mining permit application. The Senate resolution acknowledges this effort as a step in the right direction, but encourages the university to do more.

OU students and members of the Dysart Defenders addressed Senate at the beginning of the meeting and encouraged the body to vote in favor of the resolution and continue to support preservation of Dysart Woods.

Chad Kister, Dysart Defenders coordinator, gave a brief presentation to Senate about the value of Dysart, the largest tract of Ohio's .004 percent of remaining original ancient forest. Kister outlined the history of OU's involvement with Dysart Woods and efforts students have made over the years to protect it.

"Thousands of students have stood up for this over the years," Kister said. "It's been a tenuous battle, and unfortunately OU has not done enough."

Senior Zach Gibbons-Ballew, a field biology major, told Senate that Dysart Woods is especially important to him because of OU's use of the forest as a land lab, but said he feels all students should support its preservation.

"This resolution shows that we the students care about this and don't want to see Dysart degraded by coal mining," Gibbons-Ballew said.

City and county affairs Sen. John Daft, who cosponsored the Dysart resolution, said the point of the resolution was to show student appreciation to OU for steps that have been taken to preserve Dysart Woods. "The important thing is to thank the administration for hiring a lawyer and encourage them to continue these efforts," Daft said.

SENATE UNANIMOUSLY PASSED a second resolution encouraging OU to display nutritional information about foods served in campus dining halls. Senators said that providing access to food information will benefit athletes, students on special diets, and those trying to lose weight.

"We're not trying to put the university on a diet," East Green Sen. Tiffanee VanCuren said, "but this will be helpful for people who are."

Displaying nutritional information on dry-erase boards will be easy for dining hall employees because the information is already available on the OU Web site, residence life Sen. Andrew Sager said.

Senators also addressed issues relating to OU's budget crisis at last week's meeting. Vice President Matt Hunter said Senate will be investigating how OU's soft hiring freeze of employees will affect students. State and federal affairs Sen. Brian Footer distributed a letter to senators outlining how funding cuts from the state will affect OU students. Footer said he will present a resolution in support of higher education funding at this week's meeting.

LGBT Sen. Heather Lanfranchi announced that she had scheduled a town hall meeting with the OU Provost for last Thursday. Lanfranchi said the meeting was a big step toward the university fulfilling Senate's repeated requests for domestic partnership benefits for OU employees and a full-time LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) programs office.

Women's affairs Sen. Anna Jagelewski told Senate that plans have begun for the annual Take Back the Night Week events this spring and the issue of men's participation in the women's rally is again being debated, as it is every year.

University life Sen. Dustin Wood announced that he will look into the possibility of OU hosting concerts in the Convocation Center or outdoor locations, as occurred in earlier years, and a resolution should be presented to Senate in the coming weeks.

Senate also unanimously adopted a resolution to make junior Barry Mancz new senator for the College of Engineering.