While many decisions seem to be out of the hands of students, the Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) provides a way for members of the student body to influence policy. According to their website, “ASUO provides for the social, cultural, educational and physical development of its members, and for the advancement of their individual and collective interests both within and without the University.”
Like the federal and state governments, ASUO is split into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch consists of the student body president, external and internal vice presidents and a cabinet of up to 24 staff members. ASUO’s legislative body, the Senate, consists of 23 senators from every academic major. The judicial branch, known as the Constitution Court, rules on any question regarding ASUO’s constitution.
While all of ASUO’s bodies play a crucial role in the organization’s success, the legislative branch makes all financial and policy decisions. Each year, the ASUO controls a budget of $14 million.
This money is provided through a $238.50 fee that students pay each term with tuition, known as the Incidental Fee (I-Fee). Through the delegation of the Senate, ASUO is able to facilitate events and allocate funds to different groups on campus.
For this reason, Schenk says it’s crucial for members of the student body to pay attention to ASUO or participate.
“If they want to ensure their money is going to good programming and benefiting students, they then should pay attention to ASUO and the financial season, or even get involved in the process” she says. “They should care about the ASUO because most importantly we allocate the money they pay into the UO.”
ASUO provides a way for students to advocate for change within the school through dialogue with various departments in the university’s administration. Schenk says that this relationship allows student’s voices and concerns to be heard in the decision making process
“ASUO has connections with certain offices such as the Office of the University President, Dean of Students, and UO Housing, and can foster a relationship with each of these how they want… ASUO is regularly the one to be notified about these things and works with administration or other folks on whatever they are thinking about, representing the voice of students to the best of ASUO’s ability”
As ASUO president, Schenk is working to address issues on campus that she sees as important, such as tuition and food security. She says that past efforts to address these situations have been lackluster
“I want to make the tuition process as transparent as possible. Ideally I’d like to just stop tuition increases, but recognizing the financial budget of the school and working to just mitigate those factors causing large increases, and making that process transparent for all students and include the student input. The issue of food security on campus hasn’t really been addressed and we want to accelerate it”
Although it may seem that the three legislative bodies make the decisions in ASUO, there are other ways for students to get involved with process such as joining a campus task force or committee or join a student organization.