Opinion

Rousseau: New Partnership not in students’ interests



I want to thank all the students who have given their time to participate in the work of making our university a better place to gain an education. This year, students have engaged in groundbreaking and challenging dialogue.

We have debated what it means to be a truly public institution, what it means to be safe on our campus, and how to strengthen our collective student voice through advocacy.

Our country faces a wave of privatization of social services. In our time of crisis, we should look for inclusive solutions to stop disinvestment from public education.

I commend our university’s leadership for putting forward a proactive idea, but empowering private stakeholders with large financial influence over our public university is not the answer.

The New Partnership (Senate Bill 559), proposed by the University administration, asks for more fiscal flexibility and less state oversight. The ASUO Executive believes that the New Partnership is a step toward turning our university into a private institution.

When groups of active students take a hard line against changes to our campus culture and climate, it is only because we feel that doing so is necessary to our well-being as students.

Support for the New Partnership proposal assumes a great deal of blind trust in the University, and students are reluctant to give that without hesitation. We have serious doubts about our institution’s fiscal priorities.

While our faculty is some of the lowest-paid in the country, our University president is paid more than the President of the United States.@@http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2010/01/oregon_university_presidents_t.html@@

While our administration gives themselves raises, classified staff workers are threatened with less health care coverage and 3 percent pay cuts. The University built a basketball arena on Franklin Boulevard instead of residence halls or classrooms for our growing student population.

The fiscal proposal in SB 559 would have given control of public tax dollars to the UO Foundation, which serves as a private investment company for the University and has consistently avoided transparency in its investments.

The proposed expansion of DPS into a sworn police force is another cause for concern. As tuition continues to skyrocket, we cannot afford this unchecked increase in the university’s budget. DPS should ask students what we need to feel safe on campus.

Approximately 78 percent of students who voted in this year’s ASUO election support the current structure of the Department of Public Safety as a campus security force without weapons and with limited ability to infringe on student rights.

The University’s fiscal priorities do not align with student interests. Should we give this same educational institution $800 million of taxpayer money without any strings attached?@@http://newpartnership.uoregon.edu/media-coverage/media-archives/@@ @@http://asuo.uoregon.edu/docsmanuals.php?a=182@@

The elected student leadership at every public university in Oregon has taken a firm stance against the New Partnership for many reasons.

We believe that at a time when others are working together to overcome our state’s financial woes, the New Partnership would deregulate oversight and could cause confusion and conflict over those who hold decision-making power over our university’s financial affairs.

The State of Florida has experienced legal and political chaos as a result of fighting for higher education coordinating authority. Additionally, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education found that states with higher education governance structures similar to SB 559 have lower graduation rates than states that use our current arrangement.@@I can’t find this@@

This university exists to serve students. The new local governing board proposed in SB 559 would include a single student member on a board of 15. We fear that the minimal representation of students on the board reflects the values that the board would encompass in regards to shared governance of our institution.

The New Partnership is not “new.” The Chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Madison has championed a parallel proposal to deregulate the governance of Wisconsin’s flagship school.The bill is even titled similarly as the “New Badger Partnership.”

Governor Scott Walker, @@http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/@@the same governor who is attacking collective bargaining rights and state employee benefits, supports the New Badger Partnership.

Luckily for Oregon students, Governor Kitzhaber wants an inclusive process for Oregon’s higher education reform, and he recently put a stop to SB 559 for this legislative session. Instead of trying to cut ties with the state at the risk of the entire system’s success, we ask that the University work with all stakeholders statewide for effective collaborative reform.@@http://www.johnkitzhaber.com/@@

Throughout this year, students for statewide reform have met with legislators regularly, lobbying for bills that will protect state oversight over our public school system for higher education.

On Monday, hundreds of students from all of Oregon rallied at the Capitol in Salem to protect funding for higher education and need-based aid. We are making noise on the Capitol steps to remind legislators that we are engaged, organized and strong.

As motivated and informed stakeholders, students are not opposed to higher education or public safety reform. What we will continue to fight for is the day when the University’s mission prioritizes providing quality and affordable education, in both its rhetoric and its budget.

We demand to be at the table, and we will continue the fight to be heard.

Amelie Rousseau
ASUO president

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