Letters to the EditorOpinion

Senators’ exits make apathy evident

In the wake of a second ASUO senator resigning prior to starting the academic year, I felt compelled to share my reflections as a former ASUO senator.

I served as Seat 17-Grad/Law for the 2008-09 school year as well as the Senate academic chairwoman (for full disclosure, this is an officer position, but does not receive any extra stipend money beyond the $150 per month to which senators are entitled).

Concurrently, I maintained a full graduate course load (MBA – 12 credits per term), and also held a part-time job at which I averaged 20 hours per week of work. I’m sharing this with each reader not to make myself look like some sort of martyr, but to demonstrate that nearly ANY senator could justify resigning due to time commitments. I am unaware of any of my colleagues on the Senate last year who did not have another commitment (or multiple commitments) such as honors college, a student union officer position, resident assistant, job, and the list goes on.

The difference is commitment – to the position you ran for (whether you fully understood the time demands or not, it is implied you did when you committed to run and were elected), to advocating for your constituents, to the integrity of the ASUO, and overall to the University.

Yes, the demands on ASUO senators are extensive. According to the Green Tape Notebook, senators are required to: attend all Senate meetings (each Wednesday evening, averaging four hours in length with the longest meeting last year extending nearly nine hours); serve on at least two student/faculty committees (academic senators only); maintain office hours (minimum of three per week; more if you fill certain officer positions); and attend 12 complete Programs Finance Committee budget hearings, two contract negotiations of the Athletic and Contract Finance Committee, three complete EMU Board budget hearings and two Department Finance Committee budget hearings.

Additionally, academic senators must serve on at least two Student Senate internal committees (different than the student/faculty committees), whereas Finance Senators must serve on at least one internal committee.

You will notice that these requirements – essentially the bare minimum – already place significant time demands on senators, yet this does not include any outside projects a senator might (some would argue SHOULD) take on, something we as public servants are often criticized by our constituents for not doing enough.

Some examples of work senators took on this past year outside the scope of their required duties included: formation of a committee and bylaws to distribute Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit monies, an analysis and comment letter to the University administration regarding the University’s Academic Plan for the next decade, and facilitation of a “GripeFest,” where students and administrators could interact.

The main criticism Senate faced from constituents was not being present enough in Salem to represent the interest of higher education in development of the state budget for the next biennium.

Is not being in Salem enough something I (and likely most senators) regret? Yes. Were there more projects or outreach I (and likely most senators) could have done? Yes. I truly wish there were more hours in the day, enabling my colleagues and I to have completed twice as many projects to better the student body and the University as a whole.

This is why I am disturbed, frustrated and somewhat saddened that my time to serve on the ASUO came to an end this year with my graduation, but those elected to serve on the Senate are resigning before even giving a full-faith effort. It is my sincere hope that no other senators resign (or become academically ineligible) this year as each senator was elected for a reason, representing a unique point of view.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, what message are we as students sending to the administration when we cannot maintain a full body of 20 senators intact for a school year? The Senate oversees the ASUO budget, which is approximately $11,189,630 for the 2009-10 academic year – one of the largest student governing bodies (in terms of dollars controlled) in the nation.

By showing such apathy for representing and governing ourselves, we are opening the door to University administrators stepping in to control the budgeting and dispersion of student incidental funds.

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