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(Emerald archives)

ASUO senators introduced the ASUO Accessibility Initiative at its July 21 meeting. The project aims to create a center for generalized student support and expand summer programs for underrepresented student groups.

The initiative seeks to make the process of receiving academic and financial support on campus more efficient for students, ASUO senators said.

ASUO Senate President Claire O’Connor said she first conceptualized the accessibility initiative in April. She realized the University of Oregon doesn’t have any programs specific to high school age BBO foster youth, she said, and without a support structure, many foster youths age out of the system without realizing the opportunities available to them.

“That alone not being addressed by the university is a problem,” O’Connor said. “That’s really where it started.”

Students from different backgrounds end up going to different programs for the same problems, O’Connor said. For instance, two students might go to two different places on campus for financial aid based entirely on race, O’Connor said. She said students should seek aid based on their needs, not how they identify.

“We need those different communities of help for those different identities,” O’Connor said. “However there's a good amount of needs that both identities of students will exhibit, and those needs can all be addressed in one place.”

According to the project’s overview document, underrepresented students require aid which addresses more than the cost of university attendance. These students often lack the support and relationships necessary to earn a degree, the document said. 

Services that cater specifically to certain student groups would be able to focus on their more unique needs rather than replicating services that almost all students need, O’Connor said.

“We don’t want to recreate the wheel,” she said. “We just want to build on what’s already in place. That’s what we’re going to try to do with these programs.”

The project document also mentions UO’s summer programs, which are designed to help attract underrepresented student groups to the university. The summer programs will be introduced in  the project’s later phase and will include a program for foster youth, the document said.

The university’s current support structure accounts for the diverse needs of its student body with “culturally relevant and holistic services,” UO Dean of Students Marcus Langford said.

“In some cases, programs and services may look similar, but their participants and goals are different,” he said.

Despite the difference in goals, “there is no unique set of services required for underrepresented student communities,” Langford said. He said all students need access to the resources that allow them to “be successful, make connections and navigate their college experience.”

Programs and services within the Divisions of Student Life, Undergraduate Education and Student Success, and Equity and Inclusion focus on the challenges that underrepresented students face, Lesley-Anne Pittard, assistant vice president for campus and community engagement, said.

“While it is great to reconceptualize opportunities to support those underrepresented on campus, it is critical that we build upon the success of efforts already in place,” Pittard said.

ASUO’s initiative will continue to develop over the course of the next two years, O’Connor said.