2017 ASUO Elections: A look at UO For You’s updated campaign promises
UO For You, the only campaign running in the student government elections this week, updated its platform on Tuesday, specifying ways its members plan to change campus.
The voting period for candidates and ballot measures ends at 4 p.m., Thursday, April 13.
The slate posted on its Facebook page Tuesday, elaborating on what initiatives it plans to pursue if students vote its members into office. Before this announcement, the party did not give details on how it wants to improve campus, other than bringing “inclusivity,” “affordability” and “accessibility.”
Now, UO For You has a platform of eight goals its members promise to bring students. These include cultural competency training to all first-year students; increased outreach for tuition meetings with administrators and higher education lobbying efforts; enabling students to use food stamps on campus; and relocating a Eugene student food pantry to the university.
Although UO For You did not make the list of goals part of its official platform until now, ASUO Presidential Candidate Amy Schenk mentioned food pantry plans in an Emerald interview, and Internal Vice Presidential Candidate Tess Mor mentioned cultural competency training during the Emerald’s April 4 town hall. According to Schenk, the list was formed after her one-on-one conversations with campaign members and a meeting in which the group decided on its list of promises to voters.
Schenk, responding to why UO For You did not publicize the list at the start of the election season, said that their running party — or slate — needed more time to ensure its members agreed on the platform’s list of initiatives.
“We just [wanted] to make sure that [the list of goals] [were] fully in line with the rest of the slate’s vision,” she said the evening before the campaign updated its platform.
Mandatory cultural competency training for first years:
UO For You plans to push the administration to implement mandatory cultural competency training to be required for all incoming freshmen, which includes lessons on social justice terms (e.g. “cisgender,” “genderqueer,” “ableism”) and using pronouns to respect gender identities.
All members in the ASUO student government take two cultural competency training sessions a year. “The recent national elections brought forth a lot of sentiments and urgency on how we need these sort of trainings for students,” Schenk said. “It is very eye-opening, and it creates a community with either your colleagues, or your classmates — it is an important [training] and conversation to start.”
Schenk has advocated with the Oregon Student Association during her five month term as the student government’s state affairs commissioner, which supports running a bill that would require all Oregon public universities and community colleges to implement cultural competency trainings.
Cultural competency for first-year students was also a priority for former ASUO president Beatriz Gutierrez’s 2014-2015 administration, as well as her successor, Helena Schlegel, who, shortly after her 2015 inauguration, promised to implement cultural competency for freshmen. But neither brought the university to adopt it. Schenk said that she plans to find out how to secure funding and staff for such a training program.
Increasing student presence and pressure in Salem to increase state funding:
UO Administrators project that the school will receive 7 percent of its budget from state funding, which leaves the university to rely on its tuition revenue, which makes up 81 percent of the university budget.
Schenk helped run the March 9 “UO Lobby Day,” where groups of students, alumni and faculty met with state legislators, including Governor Kate Brown, at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem to demand more funding towards higher education.
UO For You wants to get more UO students involved by handing out interest cards in classrooms and inviting students to informational meetings, where they would educate students on what they are lobbying for. Then, they want to mobilize students to attend Oregon Ways and Means committee hearings and Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) meetings, to demand more funding for Oregon universities.
For students who can’t leave class, Schenk wants to organize groups to write letters to Ways and Means co-chairs and phone legislators.
“Just continuing that constant pressure on the state, to let them know that higher education students aren’t just going to sit back after one big lobby day,” Schenk said, “we are going to continue talking to them about why it is so important to get that funding.”
Push for SNAP/food stamps to be accepted on campus in some capacity:
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) gives federal food benefits to low-income citizens. UO For You wants SNAP to be accepted on campus. However, SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy hot foods; therefore, the group wants to advocate for organizations that sell cold food, such as the Duck Store, to accept federal food benefits.
Establish a student food pantry on campus:
UO For You wants the Episcopal Campus Ministry student food pantry, which provides free food to college students studying in Eugene, to be relocated to the university. It is currently located on 1329 E. 19th Ave. Schenk said that she plans to form a working group with the pantry’s owner, Rev. Doug Hale, the UO’s Student Food Security Working Group and the UO Sustainability Center, to begin looking into bringing the pantry to campus. Both Oregon State University and Western Oregon University have a food pantry located on campus.
Commitment to making tuition fees as low as possible:
The elected ASUO president and external vice president will both sit, along with three other students and one graduate student, on the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board, which gives recommendations to UO President Michael Schill on tuition increases. However, every student is allowed to attend the group’s weekly meetings during which members discuss research into where to make cuts and increase tuition. Schenk said that the TFAB’s weekly meetings are not highly publicized, and she wants to distribute invitations and emails to as many students as possible to promote them. This would allow students to be a part of the early stages of the tuition-setting process, rather than waiting for the board’s annual tuition forums (usually held around a month before Schill sends his recommendation to the Board of Trustees for a vote). Schenk also said that she wants to assign a team to reword the TFAB’s public records of the meetings in a way that students can comprehend better.
Student groups are included in the process to allocate fees:
UO For You’s external vice-presidential candidate Vickie Gimm said that the student government’s Programs Finance Committee, which develops a yearly budget with student groups to be voted on by the ASUO senate, doesn’t always ask student organizations what they want on their budget, but bases it off past spending. Gimm plans to make sure the committee is giving student organizations a chance to request exactly what they want in their annual budgets.
“I wish the ASUO could facilitate an environment that makes students more comfortable in asking what they want or how they prefer a budget to look,” Gimm said.
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