By Najah Morgan
Petitioners have been seen stopping students while they are on their way to and from class at Youngstown State University, asking them to sign petitions.
Some students and faculty feel uncomfortable being asked to sign petitions with no knowledge of what it is they are being asked to sign.
Shawn Varso, chief of police at YSU, said under the university policy that defines free speech, petitioners are allowed on university grounds.
Varso said they are allowed in exterior areas, courtyards and sidewalks but not in parking decks, parking lots or buildings.
“Provide as minimal amount of information as needed, and if you do not feel comfortable with giving out your phone number, then do not,” he said.
Varso said if you do wish to sign the petition, you are required to give your address, the county you reside in, and the date the petition was signed.
Some students complained that the petitioners were pushy and made them uncomfortable. Varso said petitioners are not allowed to continuously harass or follow anyone around campus.
Paul Sracic, professor and chair of the YSU Department of Politics and International Relations, said no one should sign a petition if they have no knowledge about the issue because petitions are often legal documents.
“In some situations, you are showing your support for a particular political issue, and of course you should not put your name behind something you do not understand,” he said.
Some of the petitioners on campus were asked by students to explain what it is they were gathering signatures for and students complained that they were not being given enough information to sign.
Sracic said if the petitioners do not wish to explain what they are gathering signatures for then, that is a reason to deny signing.
He said petitioners are required to ask for a person’s phone number and address because in most cases, they are legal documents used to satisfy a legal requirement under Ohio election laws.
Ron Cole, public information officer at YSU, said petitioners are legally allowed to be on public property and YSU is considered public property. As a university, YSU is interested in making sure it has a free flow of ideas across campus.
Cole said unless the people collecting the petitions are creating a disturbance on campus or affecting the ability of students to do their work, then he doesn’t see a problem with them being on campus.
“There is nothing in campus policy that says they cannot be here. However, students should educate themselves on what the petitions are before they sign anything,” he said.
Varso said if a person feels a petitioner is inappropriate or too aggressive, the YSU police should be contacted immediately.
The YSU police can be contacted anytime at 330-941-3525.