A lot can happen in six months – and on this campus, it did. Before students depart for their summer plans, the Emerald wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the biggest things that happened in and around the University of Oregon so far in 2019.
Tensions were high following shooting deaths
Three of the biggest events the UO community faced this year have been marked by fear and confusion around shootings in the area and responses by authorities.
The year began with the death of Charles Landeros, a Eugene activist and former UO student, after an altercation with police stemming from a custody dispute outside of Cascade Middle School.
Following the incident, an investigation by the Lane County district attorney found the police’s use of deadly force “justified,” while the Civil Liberties Defense Center, a group Landeros volunteered with, announced plans to begin an independent investigation.
“CLDC will be investigating this officer involved shooting and is deeply saddened by the murder of another person of color by law enforcement,” CLDC wrote in a Jan. 11 Facebook post.
Four months later, UO’s campus faced a shooting of its own. On May 4, one person, later identified as Lane Community College student Alex Oyombe Gradin, was killed in an altercation in the university-owned parking lot adjacent to PLC and Taylor’s Bar and Grill.
Little information has surfaced about the first murder on campus since 1984, though the Eugene Police Department is continuing to investigate the incident, hoping to locate and arrest a still-unknown suspect.
“This has had a big effect on the involved neighborhood and people who live in or visit the area. It is natural to be concerned after an incident like this, and want to know more about what happened,” said EPD spokesperson Melinda McLaughlin.
That “concern” manifested itself the very next week, when rumors swirled on social media surrounding the mental health crisis of a UO student. While people online shared unfounded threats of a planned campus shooting and some professors made classes optional, the student sought treatment.
The fear continued, however, for two days until the university publicly discredited the rumored threats – a delay which drew criticism from students and faculty who still worried about campus safety following the confusion from the threats. UO President Michael Schill also added his perspective, calling for trust and transparency in a public statement.
ASUO held an eventful election
In April, three slates ran against each other in ASUO’s annual election for executive branch members and senators. The campaign season included a tense debate that covered a variety of topics including disarming UOPD, ASUO’s Boycott, Divest and Sanction resolution and the candidates’ personal politics.
Those personal politics included a photo posted by one candidate for vice president, Michael Kraan of Oregon Alliance, that compared a raised fist made by gun control activist David Hogg to an authoritarian gesture by Adolf Hitler. The controversy around that post led Kraan to drop out of the slate.
In the end, the Ducks Empowered slate won all 28 seats it had candidates for, including president and vice president. In the other races, six write-in candidates and one student running with Oregon Alliance won seats.
After the election, the three slates in the race each had campaign funds – up to $2,000 for one slate – left over, which an Emerald investigation found could be used for personal use due to the lack of ASUO regulations applying to election donations.
Financial challenges led to tuition increases and university cuts
Many of the university’s administrative actions in 2019 have focused on a challenging financial outlook, as UO faces a $34 million budget deficit going into next year. In response, the university approved raises to both resident and nonresident tuition and proposed a slate of cuts to academic, arts and labor programs across campus.
The situation mobilized a variety of campus groups, including the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation, which is bargaining for a new contract, the Labor Education and Resource Center, which faces budget cuts, and UO community members, who lobbied for greater funding from the state.
Campus paused as snow piled up
In what now feels like a distant memory, UO students and staff got a few days off to enjoy a winter wonderland – or a weather nightmare – when snow blanketed Eugene in week eight of winter quarter. The brief pause in campus operations and student life came as campus closed on Monday, half of Tuesday and all of Wednesday.
...and so much more
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of events that campus experienced so far in 2019, but there are more: people protested in a tree, the country faced the longest government shutdown in history, the provost announced his resignation and professors sued the university and the College of Design’s dean for age discrimination before that dean announced his resignation, too.
The Emerald will continue its reporting on campus news over the summer and when students return in the fall
Many Emerald staff contributed reporting to this story, including Nolan Good, Emily Goodykoontz, Hannah Kanik, Franklin Lewis, Emily Matlock, Ryan Nguyen, Zach Price, Becca Robbins, Gina Scalpone, Michael Tobin and Anakin Welp.