Want to learn more about how student government elections work, but not sure where to start? Whether it’s your first or fourth year at the University of Oregon, we’ve got you covered. Here’s part one of our guide to this year’s elections. If you’re already familiar with how ASUO is structured, click here for part two: a guide to elections. To see part three, a full roster of students running for student government this year, click here.
First, let’s cover the basics. What is the ASUO?
The Associated Students of the University of Oregon, otherwise known as the ASUO, is a complicated and multi-faceted organization. This article will only touch on the parts of it that are vital to making an informed vote in this year’s election.
The ASUO handles a $16 million budget made up of your incidental fee money (part of your tuition). It also represents the needs of the student body to the university’s administration. It includes a few different branches: the executive, the senate, financial committees and constitution court. These first three branches of ASUO are holding elections this year.
The simplest way to think about the structure of student government is to compare it to the three-branch model of the U.S. federal government: the legislative (senate and finance committees), executive and judicial (constitution court) branches.
1. The senate
The senate most closely resembles the U.S. Congress. It’s responsible for allocating incidental fees to various student-run groups and advocating for students in larger university discussions.
All 23 senators are students who attend weekly meetings throughout the academic year. Ten of them are “finance senators,” meaning that they lead different financial subcommittees, and 13 are “academic senators,” who represent majors or departments at UO. One non-voting freshman also sits on senate. Positions on senate are referred to as “seats.”
2. Finance committees
These are like “transportation” or the “Ways and Means” committees within Congress.
Unlike the committees of Congress, where senators comprise the various committees, all of the members of these committees aren’t technically senators. Students in each of the four financial ASUO committees usually have “at-large” in their titles, e.g., “EMU Board at-large.” They vote when the senate discusses funding for a department that falls under their committee. Note: the at-large positions are different than the finance senators, who retain voting status year-round.
- The Programs Finance Committee handles budget of over 200 student groups.
- The EMU Board is responsible for the operations in the EMU building.
- The Departments Finance Committee oversees funding for UO departments such as Campus Zero Waste, LGBTQA Education and Support and Oregon Athletics Band.
- Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee deals with outsider contracts such as legal services, Lane Transit District and negotiates with the athletics departments on student tickets to games.
3. The executive
Finally, the executive branch, led by the president, oversees “the administration of ASUO programs” and acts as a representative of the student body, according to the ASUO constitution. Like the U.S. President and cabinet, the executive branch and president implement policy enacted by the senate.
In English, this means that the president and her executive cabinet ensure that student government is running properly and addressing the needs of the student body. In the past, this has come in the form of activism or solidarity with student movements — such as this year’s backlash against the tuition-setting process. In a more official capacity, the ASUO executive appoints members of the Constitution Court and is responsible for putting together a yearly guide of rules governing the ASUO called The Green Tape Notebook, among other things.