GSS drafts letter to express upset over insurance

What’s done is done, but frustration about the decision-making process of the new health insurance plan still lingers among students.

The rough draft of a letter addressed to President Sidney Ribeau and Vice President for Student Affairs Edward Whipple was presented and discussed at the Graduate Student Senate meeting Friday afternoon.

It expressed both GSS and the Undergraduate Student Government’s frustration and disappointment with how the University Board of Trustees had a closed-door executive session that requested changes to the student health insurance policy provisions.

The letter, with a suggested word and punctuation change, was satisfactory to the majority of GSS. An informal vote to issue the letter passed with 30 votes for it, seven votes against it and three abstentions.

GSS President Zach Hilpert said the letter is being sent because of the “incredibly negative reaction all across campus” to the Board recommended changes. Hilpert, along with the majority of GSS believes that it is important to express these complaints so that hopefully similar situations in the future will be handled differently.

“We feel that, as representatives of BGSU students, it is our duty to address these frustrations, and make a clear statement to the board regarding our complaints,” Hilpert said. “As the many letters, discussions and other communications on campus in the past week have shown, most students are very disappointed in the way this issue was handled, and I believe it is necessary and prudent for student government to offer a statement that summarizes that disappointment, and asks for an explanation.”

The rough draft of the letter still needs to be discussed and voted on by the USG and then USG President Aaron Shumaker and Hilpert will make any suggested changes that they vote on and issue the final draft to Ribeau and Whipple.

The reason why this issue has and still is creating so much heat on campus is because students don’t feel the Board requested changes to the insurance policy in an entirely fair or open way, Hilpert said.

“The Health Services Advisory Committee negotiated a plan which would satisfy the largest number of students possible,” Hilpert said. “We have not yet been given an explanation why this move was made, or especially why it was done in a closed-door executive session.”

Furthermore, it seems to Hilpert that a decision making process like this hasn’t been done in a long time, if ever.

“No one I have talked to, from longtime students to long-serving administrators, can ever remember in the past the Board inserting itself into the health insurance policy process in this manner,” Hilpert said. “While we respect the Board’s ability to lead the university and do not doubt their desire to make BGSU the best university it can be, the general feeling is that this move went beyond their purview.”

However, with the seven votes against the letter and the three abstentions, it can’t be ignored that some people feel differently about the decision making process of the Board of Trustees.

“I do not think that the [Board of Trustees] did anything improper by meeting behind closed doors ” the decision was theirs to make,” said GSS senator Mike Matteson.

Matteson said he thinks that it was apparent that the HSAC recommendation was taken into account at the closed-door meeting, and was not overlooked in any way.

“The [Board] made a decision that takes into account the HSAC proposal to include abortion in the health care coverage next year while also allowing persons who are opposed to it to opt out of it,” he said. “This seems to be to be a very diplomatic way to meet the concerns of the student body as a whole.”

Matteson said he strongly doubts the GSS/USG letter will change anything and that he does not agree with the message that it sends to the Board.

“They [The Board of Trustees] have no obligation to include students in the decision making process, and it would be more productive not to strain the relationship without a very good reason,” Matteson said.

Also at the GSS meeting was Whipple, who showed up briefly and formally mentioned the changes to the insurance policy.

“It pleases some and certainly displeases others,” Whipple said, however, he does think that the plan itself is the best he’s seen.

“The over-all plan is the best plan we’ve had in terms of coverage for the most reasonable cost,” he added.

Whipple also mentioned next year’s traveling budget for graduate students which is a budget for graduate students’ “professional development” that covers things like traveling expenses or research expenses that “help enhance their academic program.”

The budget as of now is $15,000, but Whipple hopes to get more.

“My hope is to increase that ” once we find out the overall institution budget,” he said.

Also announced at the meeting was that nominations for 2006-2007 GSS, SEC positions including president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and two representative-at-large places are open until April 7.