Students rally for referendum on Stroh Center

Andy Ouriel and Andy Ouriel

Students were taking advantage of their First Amendment rights yesterday by’ petitioning and voicing their opinions for a referendum on the Undergraduate Student Government’s controversial support of the Stroh Center fee. The Coalition for USG Reform was obtaining signatures throughout the afternoon’ trying ‘ to reverse USG’s original vote which accepted a $60 student fee’ last month’ starting when the Stroh Center opens its doors, which is expected to be completed in 2011. According to the USG Constitution, 5 percent of the undergraduate student body must sign the petition to bring the Stroh Center issue back to the Senate and to a potential undergraduate student vote.

And the group succeeded during the historic day. The coalition collected more than 1,000 signatures, surpassing the amount needed to proceed to the next step in appealing USG’s previous’ decision.

If USG finds no faults with the petition(such as duplicate names), the issue will be put to a student-wide vote within 15 academic days. Senior Steve Currie, founder of the coalition, feels that no matter what the eventual result of the Stroh Center, there was a lot accomplished in the name of activism. ‘Overall, the event met, if not exceeded, my optimistic expectations,’ Currie said. While one event cannot change the motivation of students being involved with politics, Currie said the process has to start somewhere. ‘I think the citizen action within the University has become more capable,’ he said. ‘Not a lot, but a little and we’ll take that.’ Several’ coalition members’ were on hand filing students in on’ the potential fee and what the Stroh Center is. Some members were also excited they were making a difference on campus in restoring activisim.

‘We are here to gather support for a referendum to get the signatures that we need so that students can have a vote,’ said Rich Ehrbar, communications director for the BGSU Stroh Center Referendum. ‘What greater way for your student representatives on the government to get students involved at this University then to have individuals vote on this referendum?’ Ehrbar said. ‘What better way do you have?’ While the coalition is vocal about giving students the right to vote on an issue, in no way is the group taking one side or the other, Currie said. Other coalition members agreed with Ehrbar on having the right to vote on something as important as the Stroh Center fee. ‘We want people to start talking more with their USG representatives,’ coalition member Sean Lutzmann said while collecting signatures. ‘Most people don’t even know what USG stands for, literally and figuratively, and we want to change that.’ ‘We want people to know they have a say in real important decisions,’ he added. While only undergraduate students will be assessed with the fee, it does not mean the city of Bowling Green is taking notice. Graduate student Joelle Ryan will not have to pay a fee, but it does not mean she cannot be in support of students getting the opportunity to vote. ‘As a person who is concerned about student issues, I believe very strongly that the USG made a very grave mistake when they decided not to have a referendum on this issue,’ Ryan said. USG President John Waynick disagrees with Ryan, saying he would back USG ‘110 percent’ in the decisions they make, including support of the Stroh Center fee. ‘I believe it takes away the legitimacy if we took every issue we had to a student referendum,’ Waynick said. While he is ecstatic students are passionate about a political issue, he feels USG made the right decision initially. ‘I still stick by the fact [that] USG acted responsible,’ Waynick said. ‘We were elected, and therefore, trusted to be a representative.’ While active participation makes Waynick happy students are taking a stance on something, some USG members believe the Coalition is getting certain facts wrong. Vice President Sundeep Mutgi said the coalition is taking a stance and would rather see the Stroh Center be stroked down. ‘It’s a petition against the Stroh Center,’ Mutgi said. Mutgi said it would be redundant for students, already in support of the Stroh Center, to have a vote. Essentially, Mutgi said the coalition is taking a side.

‘If indeed you believe the Stroh Center is a good choice, and that is what you put on the referendum, then that is just being redundant,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t make sense. The Coalition is saying they are not taking the side. The only reason why you want a referendum is to negate the resolution USG passed.’ Mutgi said the donation of $8 million by the Stroh family could be wasted if this issue gets put to a student vote. Some students do want to see this money be put to use and feel the Stroh family’ made this donation for the benefit of all students, not just athletes. Fifth-year student Terry Streetman, who is in favor of the Stroh Center, would hate to see this money not be used to replace the current facility, Anderson Arena. ‘People are trying to say the Stroh Family didn’t contribute to anything but athletics. That’s false,’ Streetman said while he was holding up a sign that read, ‘I support the Stroh family, the Stroh Center and the USG.’ But others are still convinced the Stroh Center is a bad idea. ‘The Stroh Center, to me, is a tremendous waste of money,’ senior Corey Baum said. ‘This family donates $8 million dollars and wants their name on the building, [but] they donated a small fraction of it. It should say my name and every other student’s name.’ There are those who feel USG did not represent the student body and their constituents to the fullest, contrary to Waynick’s statement. ‘The administration never asked any of us how we felt about it. No one ever asked me, nobody probably ever asked you. I don’t think that they really asked enough people to officially say we support it or not,’ junior Andrew Fortlage said, who helped create the original Facebook petition for a referendum. Even with the passion of Baum and Fortlage, not everyone on campus cares about the issue. ‘I don’t care about the Stroh Center because I don’t pay my tuition anyways,’ freshman Aaron Nestor said. No matter if people are in favor of the Stroh Center or not, or even for a referendum, students are passionate about being involved with campus activities. ‘If anything, I’m excited about the passion,’ Waynick said. ‘It makes me proud that students do care.” ‘