Insurance of change

Over the last few weeks, the controversy over the new health insurance plan seemed to have lost some steam, but the Faculty Senate has found a way to add some new fuel to the issue.

Friday afternoon, the Graduate Student Senate voted in favor of supporting a piece of Faculty Senate legislation on the new health insurance plan. The vote was slim, with 19 for, 14 against and 4 abstentions.

The legislation passed by the Faculty Senate is aimed at “respectfully requesting the Board of Trustees to reconsider the decision to eliminate automatic coverage of abortion [be it elective or medically necessary] in the student health care plan and to take action to cover all legal aspects of reproductive health care, including abortion, contraception and prenatal care for students.”

This legislation was brought to GSS by Representative-at-Large Steve Swanson and put into the form of a GSS resolution for them to vote on.

Swanson explained that a resolution is a document which expresses GSS’s stance on a particular issue, whereas, a legislation is the urging of a particular action by GSS.

In this situation, GSS is deciding to support another’s legislation, Swanson said.

“It tells the administration that, by a narrow margin, graduate students support the Faculty Senate’s desire for the health insurance to be changed to re-include abortion coverage as the norm rather than requiring students to opt in,” Swanson said, adding that he believes it’s important that the students and Faculty come together on any issue at hand.

Swanson’s personal stance on abortion isn’t relevant to the issue and he doesn’t think it should be.

“I supported and sponsored this legislation because, while I personally might or might not support abortion, I think that what is going on in regards to the student’s health insurance plan is being taken out of the student’s hands,” he said. “Ultimately, the trustees are saying that women who want access to a legal medical procedure must pay more for this [particular] procedure than others.”

Swanson looks at the fundamental part of the issue rather than seeing it as an issue based on personal opinions.

“As I said before, I don’t really see it as a pro-choice/pro-life decision, although it is for some people,” Swanson said. “I think that it boils down to the fact that the trustees are treating people differently as to whether they can participate in education at the same price as other students based on their sex.”

However, Swanson does recognize and support the issues that graduate students brought up about the legislation and ultimately would like to see a campus that provides enough support and choices so that students are not forced to make choices based on one health plan.

“I would like us all to also work on making it so abortion does not become the focal point of the discussion, but the real people who are affected by these kinds of decisions,” Swanson added.

However, with a narrow GSS vote, it can be noted that some graduate students like the plan the way it is. For some people, it may be because of personal opinions or morals, for others like GSS senator Charles David Maxey, it holds a religious basis.

Maxey, a graduate assistant, is concerned with the fact that the University makes it hard for students to find another health plan. The two main issues he mentioned is that there is a big time pressure to find alternate insurance before being able to register for classes and that some insurance companies can deny students’ applications if an applicant has certain “pre-existing” conditions, making it also harder to avoid the University health plan.

“I believe it would be reprehensible for the University to force some students to choose between registering for classes and living according to their moral value that unborn babies are precious in their sight and in the sight of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Maxey said.

Maxey also believes that not providing proper coverage for female students who carry a pregnancy full-term but providing coverage for women who get an abortion can have bad insinuations.

“Providing automatic coverage for abortion would mean that BGSU favors abortion over carrying a pregnancy to term, which does not reflect the values of a large portion of the BGSU student population,” Maxey said.

Another topic discussed at the GSS meeting was academic freedom.

GSS invited members of the Faculty Senate to address the issue of academic freedom and many voiced their opinions of its importance as well as looked to the graduate students for their feedback.

GSS president Zach Hilpert thought it was a good idea to have the Faculty and students come together in an open forum. He said it’s important to build that relationship outside of the classroom and, in this particular case, hear why academic freedom is so important.

“[The Faculty] have been discussing their opposition to the legislation in Ohio hindering academic freedom all year,” Hilpert said, “Like all Faculty, the professors at BGSU do not want legislators telling them what they can and cannot say in their own classrooms.”

Hilpert believes that “true academic freedom ” allows for an open discussion of all ideas and aspects surrounding the topic at hand.”

“By opening up the classroom to relevant ideas, we can discuss the merits of each and build an informed opinion,” he added.

Hilpert stressed the idea that even though Senate Bill 24, which would restrict certain academic freedoms, is “out of the way” right now, it may pop its head back up at any time.

“It could come back any time Columbus perceives an increase in classroom discussion they don’t find appealing,” Hilpert said, adding that restrictions on academic freedoms go “against the very nature of higher education.”

“To restrict the views and opinions that can be brought into a classroom is to destroy the open environment of honest discussion and independent thought that defines a college education,” Hilpert said. “Telling a student or professor that they cannot express an opinion because it is not held by everyone in the room or because it might offend someone, would be to destroy the very ideas a university is founded upon.”