Senate passes funding for USSA Congress

The ASUO Summer Senate voted Wednesday to spend two-thirds of its funding to send nine students to a conference later this month.

The nine, who include ASUO Vice President Getachew Kassa and Chief of Staff Ella Barrett, will attend the July 21 United States Student Association Annual Congress in Boulder, Colo. The Senate paid $2,000 to send the students to the conference, out of its summer budget of $5,000. ASUO President Emma Kallaway said her office was also providing funding for the event.

The Senate passed the allocation by a vote of 3-2 after a discussion that pitted conservative Sens. Demic Tipitino and Nick Gower against left-leaning Kallaway, Kassa and Sens. Zachary Stark-MacMillan and Jeremy Blanchard. The decisive vote was cast by Sen. Kristine Jensen, who did not speak during discussion of the request. Jensen ran on Gower’s slate in the 2009 election but said she voted based on the merits of the request, not her loyalties.

“I definitely respect what they both have to say,” Jensen said of Gower and Tipitino. “But ultimately (surplus funds are) for experiences students wouldn’t have otherwise, and that’s what this is.”

Gower said his paramount reason for opposing the request was the portion of the summer surplus fund it would consume, especially during the first meeting. He said he would have been reluctant to fund any request for $2,000 during the first meeting.

Kallaway attempted to allay those concerns by pointing out that the Senate had spent less than $3,000 during each of the past four summers.

Gower also objected to the composition of the ASUO’s planned delegation. The nine students selected include seven who hold positions within the ASUO and two from multicultural student unions, many of whom had attended the event in previous years.

“This conference more than many, many other conferences should have extensive outreach and reach other groups … like (political science) groups,” Gower said. “Those students have extensive experience lobbying.”

Because Kallaway’s funds are also financing the trip, Gower estimated the total cost to the ASUO of attending the conference at roughly $6,000.

USSA is a nationwide organization that lobbies the US Congress on behalf of college students’ issues. Its Annual Congress gives students the opportunity to learn legislative lobbying skills and to decide which issues the nationwide organization will pursue during the coming year. The University of Oregon can send up to 10 delegates to the event.

The issues nominated for this year’s USSA Congress are budget allocations for higher education, legislation that allows undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship through higher education, and the removal of American Indian college sports mascots. The USSA will adopt two issues for the coming year.

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