2016-17 ASUO leaders reflect on a year of successes and challenges as it comes to an end

May 24 marked the end of the year for the 2016-17 ASUO year. Throughout the year, the group has aimed to improve the lives of students through a variety of goals including campus lighting, higher education advocacy and a new and improved Health, Counseling and Testing Center.

Former President Quinn Haaga felt that executive met many of the goals they set out to accomplish, such as safety and accessibility. One of the most important to them was improving campus lighting. By the end of the year, campus operations will have fixed over 70 different locations that were identified as a problem. Workers will also add LED lights this summer, which are both environmentally friendly and cast a larger glow.

“We worked really hard on improving campus lighting,” said Haaga. “We had the fall Night Walk in November, and then from that we had a ton of student involvement and identified areas that were inaccessible or poorly lit on campus.”

Another goal was to expand and improve the student health center with a new building. Construction will begin next year.

“We worked on the expansion of the University Health, Counseling and Testing Center, so we signed an MoU with administration outlying how it’s going to be paid for, and what the building will include so it’s serving students’ needs,” said Haaga. “We also created a committee that will supervise on the construction of that building next year so that we ensure that students are getting as much input in that whole process as possible, because at the end of the day if the building is not usable for students then what’s the point? Having a health center on campus is such an important resource for students and it’s not something that every college campus has, so we really want to make sure that ours is one of the best.”

Former External Vice President Natalie Fisher aimed to improve the relationship with administration over the year and bring more attention to higher education on a state government level. Her intent to bring attention to the importance of higher education advocacy saw a positive response with many of the events, including a recent phone bank that involved students calling state representatives to advocate for higher education funding.

“As external vice president, I was a representative for students,” Fisher said. “I was sort of a face for everything external for students, such as administration and the state government, the federal government, things like that. I definitely worked my hardest to build those relationships and show the best face that I could for students.”

When it comes to raising awareness for higher education funding, ASUO worked to keep students informed about the future of tuition and funding.

“We’ve spent a lot of our time reconciling with the state budget crisis and trying to get students informed of how that affects tuition and what students can do to combat that,” said former Internal Vice President Zach Lusby. “We ran a phone bank to have students call their representatives in favor of more funding to public education, and also worked to help students understand the budget process at large through a few informative panels that we ran in fall and winter. So getting students more acquainted with the tuition process is something that we were passionate about when we set out to be elected, and it’s something that we worked really hard on.”

ASUO has seen setbacks in is its relationship with the student body. UO holds over 24,000 students, and getting the word out about what their student government does for them can be difficult.

“There’s so many students that don’t even know what the ASUO is, and it’s a huge organization,” said Haaga. “We manage $16.8 million of student money, and so people should really care about that since it’s their money in the first place, but we’re also making really important decisions on their behalf.”

With the new ASUO leadership coming in to set their own goals and make their own decisions, the outgoing ASUO group hopes that they see the same successes, especially in the fight for higher education funding.

“Being as strong of a voice for students is just so important, whether that’s with the administration or at the state legislature, and really understanding what it is that students on this campus need,” said Haaga. “So really making sure that you have the students best interests at heart I think is really important.”

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Erin Carey

Erin Carey

Erin Carey is a Senior Reporter, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Comparative Literature. She loves coffee, hockey and telling visitors at the Oregon Zoo random facts about the animals.