A Quiet Win: (Mis)understanding student government
When ASUO elections began last week, the only campaign running had still not released its specific goals. When elections ended, 24 hours earlier than previous years, less than 4 percent of the student body had voted on the executive ballot.
In last year’s election, in which three slates vied for votes, 24 percent of students participated, more than five times the 860 votes cast this year.
In the wake of the 2017 election, the Emerald conducted an unscientific poll to learn how students felt about the elections and student government in general. Emerald reporters interviewed scores of students and handed out surveys to various classes. The Emerald collected 289 surveys.
The poll found that 83 percent of students surveyed do not feel informed about what ASUO does. Despite this, 64 percent of students recognized that ASUO’s work mattered to them.
Other responses pointed to further disconnects between the student body and its government.
“I really only know much about club funding and how [ASUO] puts on the street faire. I don’t really know other things,” said UO sophomore Miranda Daley, who took the Emerald poll.
When asked what they would like to see ASUO focus its $16 million budget on, the most popular answers centered on tuition and affordability.
Of those surveyed, 48 percent didn’t know that elections were happening last week.
The UO For You slate elected last week includes President Amy Schenk, Internal Vice President Tess Mor and External Vice President Vickie Gimm.
Initially Schenk, Gimm and Mor were not planning to work together in a slate. There were also at least two other campaigns that formed, one with ASUO Senator Hao Tan running for president and the other with Lexi Bergeron running for president, but both campaigns dissolved before campaigning began. Schenk, Gimm and Mor eventually teamed up to form their UO for You slate.
“This year we’ve all come together to work on a single campaign, which means from my end, not all the people on the campaign are people I personally would have picked,” Gimm said in a Facebook interview with the Emerald last month. Gimm stated that she preferred running unopposed.
With only one slate running, this campaign season at UO was quieter than in previous years, when up to three slates were vying for the top posts in student government. For example, UO For You never held a kick-off event, a tradition used by previous groups to rally supporters and explain the goals of the campaign.
ASUO elections rules state that the elections board, in charge of regulating the elections process, must “register” kick-off events. The slate requested for the event to be held on Sunday, April 9. However, Hunter Mackin, the elections board coordinator, did not submit an official room request to scheduling services until noon Friday, April 7.
UO Scheduling and Event services declined his request: UO For You and the elections board had not included chairs and sound equipment in the initial request. UO scheduling requires a week’s notice to check out equipment when booking rooms.
UO student Daniell McCann, a student who the Emerald polled, remembers when she went to a 2016 ASUO election kick-off event to support her roommate, who was running. McCann said that she learned about what the student government does and what it advocates for.
“Last year, when they had all the campaigns, you got to hear about each one,” she said. ”You can have a say in the change it makes.”
UO For You also released its campaign goals much later than slates have in the past. The slate did not release a detailed plan until halfway through the elections: the slate ran solely on the three words “inclusivity,” “accessibility” and “affordability” until revealing specific policy goals on Tuesday of election week, two days before voting closed.
President-elect Schenk said that the delayed release of the goals was not to hide them from voters, but that it took time for the campaign to develop a list that everyone could agree on.
“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 in an interview with the Emerald, before UO For You announced the updated platform.
The delay in publicizing initiatives was compounded by a change in election rules this year. The voting period in previous years had lasted until 4 p.m. on Friday of election week. This year, it ended on Thursday, giving students 24 hours fewer to familiarize themselves with UO For You’s goals before voting.
Mackin, the elections board coordinator, was unsure why the change had been made.
“Ultimately, it was just determined to make it easier on the campaigns, I guess,” he said. “Just because a solid day of ground campaigning stretches resources.”
UO For You executive will take office on May 25.
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