ASUO seeks law students to fill vacancies

A memo to law students: the ASUO wants you.

For 2009-10, the ASUO will hire for four positions reserved for or traditionally held by law and graduate students.

One of the seats that represents law and graduate students on the Student Senate is open after the candidate elected to it resigned in June. The position for law and graduate students on the ASUO president’s staff is also open for the coming year. And there are two as-yet vacant seats on the ASUO Constitution Court, the student government’s equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court.

All four positions come with modest monetary stipends. They also come with influence over how the ASUO spends its $12-million budget.

“You can have a ton of impact, but it can also give you a lot of experience,” law student Sandy Weintraub said.

Weintraub represents the School of Law in the ASUO, and also serves as president of the Student Bar Association. He has served on the Senate since his election in 2008 and gets along well with its other members.

But Weintraub is one of the few graduate or law students who still holds a position in student government. The resignations of the other two graduate students most recently elected to the Senate offer a clue as to why involvement from post-graduate programs is so low. Sociology graduate teaching fellow Christina Ergas, elected in April, and law student and masters of business administration candidate Kate Jones, who served in the Senate for a year and a half, both cited time commitments when they left.

Law school takes time, leaving many seeking their juris doctor degrees with little time to devote to the time-consuming ASUO. ASUO President Emma Kallaway said she expects her staffers to work 20 hours a week. The time commitment for the ASUO Senate is similar between committee hearings, office hours and the obligatory 2-to-9 hour meeting that starts at 7 p.m. every Wednesday.

Weintraub said other reasons contribute. Law students often see their time at the University from a different perspective than that of an undergraduate. “They’re there to get an education for a professional career of some sort,” he said. “For a lot of people, there’s not an emphasis on activities in general.”

Nevertheless, it is possible to do both. Former Constitution Court member Shon Bogar served as the court’s chief justice while spending much of his time in Portland working in the Multnomah County Circuit Court.

And the ASUO really does want law students involved.

“They offer a different perspective on the academic environment,” Kallaway said. “They’re very important in a growing constituency that needs better representation.”

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