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Smoking, Student Government and Syria

On April 26, 2012

The past year at UT has been nothing less than memorable. We’ve seen everything from protests and political activism to the squabbling of Student Government. Students made their voices heard through discourse, panel discussion and public outcry in response to events including the Trayvon Martin case, UT’s attempt at an innovative parking system, the designated smoking zones and the plight of the Syrian people. Let us take this time to acknowledge these efforts and other notable occurrences which have affected the UT community this year.

Issue 2: Earlier in the year, students, faculty and staff rallied against Issue 2. This bill was signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich, but the people immediately stood in opposition of it. Had it passed, it would have cut wages, benefits and effectively destroyed the education system. It was shot down in the Nov. elections.

Rally for Syria: Students called for Bashar Al-Assad to stand down and to “stop drinking Syrians’ blood” at last month’s demonstration. When people are posing as slaughtered civilians and next to “blood soaked body bags,” it creates an atmosphere of shock for unaware students walking to class. Others were inspired and made aware of the situation in Syria.

Band members injured: Northern Illinois University players ran onto the field early and injured four UT marching band members. The players were specifically told not to run onto the field until the band had exited. Jamaal Bass, a linebacker for NIU was suspended and recently indicted for his actions.

SOPA/PIPA: Protecting the intellectual property of those who post material on the internet is a worthy goal. Doing so at the cost of personal freedom, however, is not acceptable. No good comes from censorship as it is usually a sign of a new regime taking over. Opposition and action against SOPA was supported by many who value free thought. Search engines such as Google and Wikipedia shut down for a day in protest and caused difficulties for students. Despite the inconveniences, the greater reality is that if this bill was not fought against this would be a daily inconvenience. The bill was not brought to a vote as a consensus was not met. PIPA met a similar fate due to public outcry.

Shafir sits season out: Naama Shafir, an experienced and valued basketball player, was forced to refrain from playing this season. She tore her right anterior cruciate ligament. The news saddened UT coaches and sports fans alike but Shafir retained her sense of optimism and didn’t allow her injury to keep her from the sport she loves. She was able to stay involved and coach fellow teammates from the sidelines. The team had to rework their strategy to accommodate her absence. In the game following her injury, they pulled off a solid victory and made the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Shafir will return next season to very supportive teammates and dedicated fans.

New parking system: UT developed a new system to incorporate both license plate recognition and a scanning system. Students were required to register make, model, color and year of vehicle in conjunction with the plate number. The intention was to make things easier for students. Unfortunately, many students reported that it made things more difficult since the system malfunctioned and students began to park wherever was convenient. As a result, the UT Police Department made citations in person to enforce proper parking. Throughout the malfunction, UT’s Department of Auxiliary Services maintained that the $175,000 spent on installing the system will balance out.

Smoking policy: Under the new smoking policy, which went into effect this year, smokers are restricted to “designated smoking zones” throughout campus. However, people visibly disregard these policies and smoke where they please. One might ask, was it even worth it? Those who follow the new policies suffer segregation and nothing really changed for those who don’t.

Student Government: SG was a headache. A senate meeting where motioning to rid the constitution was just the tip of the iceberg. SG disrespected their adviser, their constitution and their constituents. They made plain their disregard for the core mission and didn’t operate as a cohesive group. An extension of these issues was manifested in the election. Through a gradual process of shameful actions and petty bickering, five tickets were reduced to one viable option.

Trayvon Martin: Many students were shaken by the death of Trayvon Martin. The unjust killing of any person is a tragedy but a death related to racial profiling and prejudice is simply intolerable. UT students responded to the killing by coming together to stand against Martin’s death, to honor his memory and raise awareness. It could be said that activism and protest detract from the educational experience, but college campuses are a place where activism should be encouraged.12

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