Guest viewpoint: ASUO Executive year in review
This piece reflects the views of the authors, the 2015-2016 ASUO Executive, and not those of Emerald Media Group. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to all students who have allowed us to serve as a support for student voices over this past year. After a contentious election in 2015, we have worked hard to engage, grow student power and advocate for access on campus. The ASUO is spread across many areas and is heavily involved in issues of policy, this year we worked primarily in the areas of sexual violence prevention & education, campus safety, food security, accessibility and tuition affordability. In addition to these projects, we advocated for funding for higher education in Salem, sought to secure student input on the health center expansion project and attempted to improve education between students by obtaining the student email listserv from UO admin.
As our Sexual and Mental Health Advocate, Sophie Albanis expanded on her already vast intersectional feminist SVPE work by arranging the first ever Summit on Sexual Assault early in the year, bringing together student groups in the field to come up with collaborative goals. In addition to this, she planned two SVPE poetry slams and an As You Like It sex positive workshop with team members.
Our campus safety project worked in collaboration with student Sydney McBride to coordinate a forum on concerns in the fall, and has since worked with Enterprise Risk Management and faculty members to develop a survey for better addressing campus needs, as well as new methods for identifying issues. Meanwhile, the food security team has paired up with other student organizations and the EMU to find campus space for a food pantry for students.
Lisa Weiss served as the Accessibility Advocate, pairing with the AccessABILITY Student Union to bring guest speaker Reveca Torres to campus for a discussion on spinal cord injury, developed a phone app with the Infographics Lab to update the true campus accessibility as reflected in the UO map, developed a flipbook with her team which highlights accessibility resources on campus and wrote a policy change for Universal Design with members of AASU. Lisa’s hard work has created more accessibility on campus, as well as overall awareness of the issues students with disabilities face every day.
Tuition will be going up by over 4.5% in the upcoming school year, but it didn’t happen without strong opposition from students this year, and we thank everyone for that participation. We presented the UO Board of Trustees with over 1,000 petition signatures against the tuition hike, suggested a reduction in IT expansion and Trustee Kurt Wilcox recommended alternative funding sources, all as ways to reduce the increase for this year. After convincing the Board to reject a 10% hike in a transition to a guaranteed tuition model, they unfortunately sided with the goals of President Schill and the Tuition & Fees Advisory Board administrative members in their tuition increase.
Additionally, Executive members Potratz and Gimm organized with OSA Campus Organizer Rachel Jones to bring the concerns of students to Salem. They held administrators responsible to the state legislators, and presented a path for more funding for higher education in the years to come. Though there is never a chance at garnering funds during a short session year, these two students did incredible work to improve communication with Salem and fight for affordability at the UO.
In the upcoming years, there are a few things that we hope students are cognizant of.
First, find anyway to learn more and get engaged. This year, the administration has worked to keep the list of student emails away from the ASUO in order to break communication and awareness of issues. Though no other department or apartment rental company has a contract for sending emails, we have been dragged through several months of negotiations to even send one message, and will leave office without getting the emails, despite being promised the list for several weeks now.
Secondly, while this same administration wants the $6 million dollars of student building fee dollars to go towards a health center expansion, and we want the same, they want the ASUO to sign off on that money with no agreement in place for how conversations around the new space will be conducted. Also, they will be coming back with an ask for $10-18 million from students as they haven’t begun fundraising for the new building yet. We want to give them the $6 million because these resources are needed, but having students to pay the full amount of the building with no control over the construction would be bad practice of stewardship of funds for the ASUO.
Keeping costs down is what we aimed to do, and with tuition costs going up without negotiation, we cannot ask students to submit more fees and payments to this administration. There is nothing holding them accountable to our funds, as the Board is here for a few days out of the year and is so far removed that they cannot understand student needs in their fullest capacities.
Thank you again everyone for an incredible and progressive year. Stay aware and willing to challenge the University when they act against students’ best interests, and work together to find a means of accountability. Enjoy your time left on campus, make positive inclusive change and build student power!
2015-2016 ASUO Executive