Letter: Rousseau off base with convocation claims
Every year at Convocation, the ASUO President speaks to the freshman class about what it means to be an Oregon Duck and encourages those thousands of new students to make the most of the opportunities this university provides.
At least, that was how it was supposed to go last Sunday, but our new ASUO President, Amelie Rousseau, showed that precedent, respect and propriety are not concerns of her administration.
In the first few moments of the speech, Rousseau apologized to the freshman class for the “tear gas attack” perpetrated upon them by the Eugene Police Department.
According to a radio interview with Rousseau given later in the week, the response — applause and cheering — made her feel as though the students really supported her.
She then took that moment in her Convocation speech to encourage the audience to think critically about allowing the Department of Public Safety to become a full-fledged police department, asserting near-explicitly that the result would be more incidents like that Friday’s.
The disrespect and dishonesty of her remarks are very saddening. Regardless of our opinions about the appropriateness of tear gas, DPS was not even involved in Friday’s incident.
While EPD was at 14th and Ferry, DPS was patrolling around the residence halls to ensure that residents and staff would be safe should any disorderly individuals (the term “rioters” may or may not be appropriate here) migrate to the other side of campus.
In even suggesting that DPS is a threat to campus safety, Rousseau essentially denied their role as an essential component of our campus community.
Ask someone who, thanks to DPS’s bike registration program, was able to get their bike back after it was stolen; ask someone who filed a harassment report with DPS; ask someone to whom DPS responded when a stranger was in their residence hall.
The next time you’re in the library, remember that it’s DPS that makes after-hours service possible. These individuals do not threaten our safety; on the contrary, they ensure it.
The ignominy of Rousseau’s behavior did not end there, however.
She then told the entire audience that voting was important, not because we have a duty to be an informed and active participant in government (a sentiment we wholeheartedly endorse), but to keep police off-campus and to keep tuition from increasing by opposing President Lariviere’s proposal to remove the University of Oregon from the Oregon University System.
A recent Register-Guard guest commentary by Lariviere provides a fantastic summary of the issues; anyone who would like to understand what the proposal is truly about should read it immediately (“It’s time for a UO endowment to preserve public mission,” Sept. 26, Register-Guard).
Despite what Rousseau might claim, the ability to raise tuition is not its main concern.
After grossly misrepresenting these issues to the majority of the freshman class, Rousseau then walked them, step by step, through filling out voter registration cards.
At no point did she encourage them to research these issues themselves, an equally important part of our political process, as any person who took government in high school could tell you.
Instead, Rousseau encouraged voting at the barricades, as if these issues are the culmination of the struggles of our generation.
Aside from her insulting comments about DPS and her questionable methods of voter registration, the saddest thing about Rousseau’s speech was that Convocation was poised to be a fantastic event.
A parade of new students marched down 15th Avenue into Hayward Field, led by bagpipers from the Eugene Fire Department and the Oregon Marching Band’s drum line.
President Lariviere’s speech was moving and impassioned, and the entire band took the field to lead the class of 2014 in the pledge song and the fight song.
An event like this, planned by so many to welcome new students to our community and to their new homes is not the place for shameless politicization and irresponsible proliferation of half-truths.
To those new students in attendance, know this: though she may be the ASUO President, Rousseau does not speak for us.
Our university is a place where celebrations are for celebrating and where we show courtesy and respect to our fellow community members.
It is a place where we encourage dialogue and we value conversations that challenge — or even change — our beliefs, even if that is not Rousseau’s university.
Drew Terhune, University senior
Boris Bourget, University senior
Hannah Dischinger, University senior
Brittany Nefcy, University senior
Michael Weber, University junior
Jessica Miller, University junior
Janessa Nelson, University junior
Alison Brown, University senior
Tony Dundon, University senior
Elizabeth Aldrich, University senior
Melissa Miller, University senior
Madison Kinney, University senior
Bennett Hubbard, University junior
Alex Slack, University sophomore
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