The 2019 ASUO debate is over, but for the three slates competing: Ducks Empowered, Oregon Alliance, and UO is Yours, the race continues. With the polls open between April 8 and 11, the executive candidates are running to bring their slates' visions to the University of Oregon student government.
Ducks Empowered brings 30 candidates to this year's race, with Sabinna Estephania Pierre and Montse Mendez at the helm running for president and vice president respectively.
“Being involved in ASUO, we want to better the different processes that go on, so all students can be involved in conversations, and all students can feel comfortable,” said Pierre, who is vice-chair for the EMU Board.
Mendez, now the Senate president, expressed a similar need for structural change.
“Student officials face a lot of work, not only in hours, but intellectually and emotionally, and so sometimes it's difficult to not only get your job done, but also effectively communicate to the public what you're doing.”
They explained that their slate is focused on tuition engagement, mental health care, and fair student pay.
“Not many students have an understanding of that process, and how are they suppose to raise questions about a process they don’t understand, or are not able to have access to?” Pierre said on tuition engagement. She elaborated that the administration would have workshops, open houses, educational campaigns, and collaboration with student leaders to better inform students about the issue.
Mendez explained that in approaching mental health, they want more access to resources and de-stigmatization of mental health issues on campus, especially for marginalized groups.
“We have someone on our team who's worked closely with the mental health center,” said Mendez. “It's not a part of the ASUO budget, so we want to see how we can provide more funds, with the power we have as ASUO executives, to the counseling center.”
Pierre explained that in terms of fair student pay, Ducks Empowered intends to advocate for all student workers, increasing stipends for student leaders, and including a position for graduate employees on the executive cabinet.
The candidates noted that several slate members have been involved in ASUO before and elsewhere on campus.
“Most of the people on our slate are student leaders,” Pierre said. “Most of them are involved in different student organizations, and they have great experience.”
Mendez said that ultimately, the slate’s chief concern is in representing students.
“The world’s issues replicate themselves on a micro-scale at the university level. When it comes to issues of race, class, accessibility — sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about them, but we do have power over them, a say over them, when it comes to our local environment,” Pierre said.
UO is Yours
Katie Quines and Gracia Dodds are the sole members of the UO is Yours slate, running for president and vice president respectively. Quines and Dodds both serve on the FSL Sexual Violence Prevention Taskforce, with experience in debating and advocating for protection against gender-based violence and for marginalized groups.
“One of the main reasons we wanted to run is because we see a huge issue with sexual violence prevention on campus,” said Quines. “Not only was sexual violence prevention not a main goal of last year's ASUO campaign, but they removed the role of sexual violence prevention advocate from the executive cabinet.”
In addition to reinstating that position, they want students on faculty hiring committees, open-source textbooks for reduced costs, a reinstatement of the Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team, and increased transparency in ASUO through more office hours and a greater social media presence.
Dodds explained that advocating for graduate employees is one of the cornerstones of the slate's mission.
“Undergrads don't tend to know what GE’s do and what they are facing, and we thought it was really important for that representation to happen,” Dodds said.
Quines explained that their administration would start a program known as “No Duck Hungry” to help alleviate student hunger.
“Students who live in residence halls at the end of terms could decide to donate their meal points to a pool of resources that would be re-distributed to food-insecure students,” said Quines.
She explained that programs such as this would be a way to provide non-economic fallbacks considering rising tuition.
“You can't promise ASUO is going to keep tuition low, and we can't make any guarantees in Salem, but we can promise that we're pushing to have tangible actions taken to mitigate those rising effects,” Quines said.
Quines and Dodds said it has been challenging expressing their voices alongside their opponents.
“A lot of folks want to frame this as Ducks Empowered versus Oregon Alliance,” said Quines. “We want students to be informed, and to feel confident casting their vote that they heard all of the options. We really want to get to know people on a person-to-person basis.”
“We hope folks look at the slates’ goals and initiatives, rather than just voting for their friends.” said Dodds. “Being an informed voter is very important in this election, and making sure [the voters] have someone that encompasses their values.”
Joey Alongi is the sole executive challenger for Oregon Alliance, running for president. The slate’s vice presidential candidate Michael Kraan exited the race last week after controversy emerged over his past association with conservative group Turning Point USA. Although included on the ballot, he will not be elected. Another Oregon Alliance member, who was running for Senate and was affiliated with Turning Point, Khang Ngo, separated from the slate.
Alongi, formerly of the UO College Democrats and FSL Sexual Violence Prevention Taskforce, described his motivation in running for president as being dissatisfied with the actions of past ASUO administrations.
“For me, it's looking at the current ASUO, and seeing flaws in the structure, seeing a turnaround of power going to the same people,” said Alongi.
Alongi explained that he and the slate take issue with the Senate passage of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions resolution, struck down by the ASUO Constitution Court this February, which they feel was discriminatory and ignored student concerns. They are also displeased with ASUO's budgetary practices and with what they perceive as a lack of transparency and accessibility within the body.
Alongi acknowledged that the members of the slate have limited experience with ASUO, but said that there was a purpose in seeking out individuals not normally involved in student government.
“Many of our current slated members have a lot of experience in groups, in political organizations,” said Alongi. “By reaching out to people who feel disenfranchised by ASUO, who have passion for the fields they involved themselves in, we know we are reaching out to the best people.”
Oregon Alliance’s campaign goals include increasing transparency in student government through more frequent office hours and online notifications, working with Uber and Lyft to help students have discounts for rides on the weekends (in an effort to promote safety), passing a Senate resolution that would define discriminatory legislation, and promoting fiscal responsibility and scrutinization in ASUO.
“We're hoping we can lobby the school and ask for less money to be allocated to ASUO, and hopefully pull less out of tuition,” Alongi said. “We don't need 16 million dollars – cut back on that, save the students money, because clubs can succeed and groups can flourish without all this extra on top.”
Alongi explained that more student access to ASUO was especially important for the slate.
“We believe the best legislation is only produced through mass communication, transparency, and input from as much of the student body as we can get,” he said. “We want to to make sure they have whatever outlet they need to come talk to us, and come let us know what they think.”