The ASUO offices, normally busy, are empty due to precauctions being taken to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Because the ASUO student government is operating remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the offices will remain empty throughout fall term. (Will Geschke/Emerald)

The ASUO senate passed a resolution supporting resource accessibility for BIPOC students at its Jan. 27 meeting. The senate’s Black Lives Matter committee drafted the document as the first in a series of resolutions it hopes to bring through the senate this academic year. 

The document emphasized that Black lives matter “without hesitation or question” and acknowledged the need for systemic change to support BIPOC students and faculty at the University of Oregon.

The document called upon UO to hire more Black faculty members and allocate funding toward scholarships, programming, academic support and emotional support. It also asked that the university direct sustainable funding to the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center and to ensure all faculty and staff members undergo cultural competency and anti-racism training. 

The resolution also called for a pilot program funded through the senate’s surplus that would support work that BIPOC students are already doing on campus.

ASUO Senator and BLM Committee Chair Asa Ward said the committee, which formed during fall term, had initially planned for one resolution in support of Black students, staff and faculty at UO, but decided multiple would allow the senate to address specific issues more cohesively. “We figured that was the best way to go in terms of actually getting across all the ideas that we wanted to talk about,” he said.

Ward said it was important that the committee worked with existing programs and student organizations to ensure that anything it develops will actively help students. “We have an idea for creating some sort of programming for these students that’s sustainable,” he said, “and we can do that through the funds in senate. However, we don’t want to end up creating a program that is not going to be used.”

For this reason, the committee is working to explore existing programs and solicit feedback from Black students in the UO community.

Ward said members of the committee had spoken with a handful of student organizations, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Black Cultural Center, among others, to assess the needs of the UO community. UO Associate Dean of Students Marcus Langford said these conversations helped him to understand where the committee was coming from, as well as allowed him to provide members with information about existing programs to support Black students on campus.

Ward said the committee specifically talked with the College of Arts and Sciences about hiring more Black advisors and Black academic counselors to support students. 

“As a Black individual, it’s sometimes a little unsettling or a little uncomfortable to go into an advisory meeting — even though you know they know what they’re doing and you know they’re good at their job and that’s what they’re hired for,” he said. “Sometimes you want that representation. You can feel a little bit more comfortable and feel a little bit more safe and understood in an environment where you see someone that looks just like you. You know that they’ve had similar experiences. They understand where you’re coming from.”

ASUO is also working to support existing programs on campus, with the ASUO executive branch requesting a $6,500 transfer for food security work at the senate’s Feb. 10 meeting. Out of that request, ASUO plans to specifically allocate $3,000 to the BCC, according to ASUO finance director Conrad Sproul. 

Dr. Aris Hall, the BCC coordinator, said she plans to use the funding to provide “home cooked” meals for students as they watch an upcoming NBA game together via Discord. Hall said she also wants to offer at least one prepared meal for students who stay in Eugene during spring break. 

“We’ll keep going, no matter if COVID’s a thing or not,” she said. “We’re still forming this community and engaging Black students and others who want to learn more about Black culture.”

Ward said the committee plans to address the University of Oregon Police Department, education and fraternity and sorority life in future resolutions. It may also take on tuition rates and the board of trustees, Ward said.

“I want to set this committee up such that there’s a foundation for the people who are going to be on this committee in the future,” he said.