Twenty-seven pieces of legislation were on the docket at this weekend’s Association of Big Ten Students meeting between student governments within the conference representing more than a half-million students. Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government brought three pieces of legislation and each unanimously passed.
The ABTS meets three times during the academic year — twice at Big Ten campuses and once at Capitol Hill. USG brought its own legislation, as well as legislation it cosponsored with other universities in the conference aiming to improve issues that campuses might have in common, including food insecurity, religious observance accommodations and Title IX protections.
“We collectively spent five-ish hours on this, and we didn’t even get to all of them, but all of ours were heard and passed unanimously, which was awesome,” Julia Dennen, USG vice president and fourth-year in public affairs, said.
Addressing food insecurity
The first piece of legislation passed was primarily sponsored by Ohio State and cosponsored by the University of Minnesota student governments to establish steps to be taken to help tackle food insecurity among students at their respective universities, according to the ABTS legislative docket.
A primary sponsor writes the resolution, while the secondary sponsor signs on if they value the content, Kate Greer, USG president and fourth-year in European history and German, said.
A report from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice cited on the docket reported that 45 percent of students at both two- and four-year institutions have experienced food insecurity within the last 30 days.
According to the docket, the legislation established that each ABTS member will work to understand the intricacies and statistics regarding food insecurity on their campuses; each student government in ABTS will make an effort to create a relationship with themselves and campus food pantries; and community and state partners will be sought out by each government on their campus to address the issue.
“This was a resolution that we wrote, and it passed unanimously to urge Big Ten campuses to look at food insecurity on campus and the food insecurity of the student population especially because multiple of the Big Ten campuses can be categorized as food deserts,” Dennen said.
Accommodations for religious observances during finals
The second piece of legislation was sponsored by Ohio State and works to accommodate students who observe religious holidays during finals, the docket states.
The goal of the legislation is to get Big Ten student governments to work with faith councils and administrators to create a campaign educating students on their right to academic accommodations and have universities consult Affinity — a religious organization — prior to deciding whether a student should be accommodated or not, according to the docket.
“It was a good chance to kind of talk to the other Big Ten schools about what they are doing in regards to religious accommodations for exams, especially with Ramadan being over exam season this year and for the next several years,” Greer said. “It was good for us to be able to tell them what we’ve done at Ohio State so far with keeping the testing centers open early and late and informing faculty and just really trying to institutionalize the process to get accommodations.
USG’s General Assembly passed a resolution in support of Ohio State’s students of faith Nov. 14. Resolution 52-R-17, which passed with unanimous consent, recommends that the university allow students of all religions to be excused from exams during periods of religious observance.
Reaffirmation of all protections of parenting and pregnant students within Title IX
The final piece of legislation on the docket for Ohio State was a resolution with the University of Michigan as the secondary sponsor. The resolution was written by Maddie Carson, a second-year in industrial and systems engineering and senator in USG’s GA, and requires university instructors to comply with Title IX, according to the docket.
Title IX explicitly prevents discrimination based on sex in the academic world and also puts forth a number of protections for students who are pregnant, have recently had a child, had a miscarriage or have had an abortion, according to the Office of University Compliance and Integrity’s website.
According to an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 22 percent — or 3.8 million — of undergraduate students are parents.
In compliance with Title IX, universities are required to provide pregnant students with the same accommodations as students with temporary medical conditions, according to the docket. Universities are also required to provide students with necessary medical leave of absence free of any harassment, intimidation and other discrimination.
“Essentially, it is making sure that whenever you are talking about Title IX protections, that parenting and pregnancies are mentioned in that as well because often they are an underserved population of students who get ignored and don’t know the rights that they have and end up not completing their degrees or staying in school or getting their help that they need,” Dennen said.
USG initially showed its support for pregnant and parenting students Oct. 16 during a GA meeting with a unanimous vote on Title IX legislation. Resolution 52-R-12 seeks to raise awareness and ensure that Ohio State adheres to the protections afforded to students who have children or are pregnant under Title IX, according to the legislation.
Greer and Dennen said they will now get back to work on things they have started upon returning to campus.
Dennen said once legislation passes at ABTS, the student governments bring the legislation back to their respective schools. Some may pass legislation in their own assemblies, while others begin working on the projects.