ASUO has an annual budget of approximately $16 million and only one slate is in the running to take control of these funds next year.
On Tuesday, the Emerald hosted a town hall meeting with Presidential Candidate Amy Schenk and Internal Vice Presidential Candidate Tess Mor from the UO For You campaign. The candidates shared their goals and ideas for their seemingly inevitable time in ASUO executive positions. As executive members, these individuals represent students among administration and allocate student funds throughout the year.
Schenk and Mor spoke on the major components of their slate. External vice presidential candidate Vickie Gimm did not attend the town hall due to a conflicting class.
Even though UO For You is the only slate running, conflict still arose in its formation.
“Me, Vickie and Amy, initially, I don’t think we would have ever run together,” Mor said at the town hall. “I think that we all would have formed very different slates. We’re all people with very different views which is why I think this is very unique.”
Gimm expressed a similar sentiment in an interview with the Emerald.
“I would have preferred a progressive campaign full of people from marginalized backgrounds, people who aren’t trying to build their political careers, and a campaign that ran on transformative institutional changes,” she said.
Gimm wrote in a Facebook interview that she prefers running unopposed, and that a lot of compromising went into it; however Gimm, Mor and Schenk maintain that it was never their intention to run unopposed.
Others disagree. Lexi Bergeron was part of an opposing campaign that was disbanded shortly before the campaigns were allowed to be made public according to election rules, and in her opinion, UO For You was not entirely fair in their practices.
“The UO For You campaign is built off of restricting ballot access and discouraging others to run through intimidation and opacity,” she alleged. Bergeron explained that while she respects the members of UO For You, she does not believe that a single slate campaign is fair to students.
Schenk stated that in the formation of her slate, some students felt displaced.
“It’s ASUO, so there was a lot of drama already before I even started to get into the mix of elections,” she said. She stated that she would make sure that all the students who felt excluded from elections would still be heard. “My door’s always open, open for a conversation and open for advocacy as well,” she said.
Vickie denied influencing anyone else in their decision to run. “This year was just a funky year and no other players wanted to run an opposing campaign,” she said.
Voting and ground campaigning start Monday and UO For You will be campaigning on campus. Although for the executive vote students only have the choice of writing in a candidate or voting for UO For You, there will also be ballot measures for students to vote on.
“We’re still planning to do street teaming and to do some phone banking. Our whole goal is that we want the student body to be an informed body,” Mor said. “It’s just not going to be to the same extent. We don’t want people to resent the ASUO elections.”
The main points of UO For You’s campaign are inclusivity, affordability and accessibility for the university. The candidates brought up many of these points at the town hall meeting on Tuesday.
Mor spoke about creating a mandatory cultural competency training for freshmen. “We really want to find a way to put action behind our words and our advocacy,” she said, explaining that the training could be a way to achieve this.
Each ASUO president since 2014 has planned to instate cultural competency programs for freshmen. When asked how Mor plans to actually achieve this goal she responded, “I personally haven’t been the one who has been working with that in the past so I’m not exactly sure of the challenges.”
Mor spoke about wanting to get students involved in ASUO. “I’m one person but I think that getting out there and talking to as many people as possible is the best way to represent the student body,” she said. Mor also spoke about expanding the unpaid intern program in order to establish more communication between groups and ASUO.
“I want each group to feel like their voice is being heard,” she said.
“The amount of struggles I’ve seen students have to go through to even attend a university is disgusting,” Schenk said. She spoke about her goals to make attending university more affordable for students, from free printing to more affordable textbooks and tuition. “My best friend had to go through sex work to get here and that was not her choice,” she explained.
ASUO can only affect tuition prices in an advisory role. They worked with the Tuition and Fees Advisory board on the recent 10.6 percent in-state tuition increase, a process Schenk was involved in. Schenk spoke at a rally before the Board of Trustees meeting where tuition was raised.
“I understand this year is really complex,” Schenk said. “There are a lot of [ongoing] issues with state funding, a lot of issues with how we’re going to cover the cost of this university. But there’s money at this university. … The debt does not have to be put on students’ backs.”
UO For You listed “increasing student presence and pressure in Salem to increase state funding” as one of their campaign initiatives.
At one point, the ASUO president had a seat on the Board of Trustees, but in 2015, Helena Schlegel, the ASUO president at the time, resigned from the board because she said that she “wasn’t regarded as equal to the other trustees.” Her seat was replaced by a student board member position currently held by William Paustian.
UO For You plans to establish a student food pantry on campus, and wants to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and food stamps to be used at Duck Store locations. Schenk said in an interview with the Emerald that she has made efforts to work with the student food pantry to move it onto campus and remove its religious affiliation in order to make more students comfortable attending it each week.
Another issue important to Schenk is finding more funding for mental health care for students. “Asking someone to wait two months for help with depression is too much for students,” she said. The University Counseling Center stated at the board of trustees meeting that 25-35 percent of students who initiate contact with the UCC are referred out due to lack of resources.
Below is an infographic about prior slates that have run for ASUO elections as well as this upcoming week’s ballot measures and their descriptions.