ASUO executive has taken multiple steps this term in an attempt to advocate for some of the issues they believe affect the UO student body the most. These issues include food security measures and student tuition.
According to the ASUO constitution, the purpose of their organization is “to provide 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.”
ASUO had the chance to prove this during University Lobbying Day, 2020. According to Libby Batlan, Associate Vice Provost of State and Community Affairs, 93 advocates including ASUO administration went up to Salem for the event.
Batlan said that advocates, including the members of ASUO in attendance, were trained before setting upon the capital with the intent to lobby for legislation that they believed would support student bodies across Oregon.
Sabinna Pierre, the ASUO president, and other student government leaders from Oregon public came together in order to advocate for two major bills that ASUO advocated for included House Bill 4055 and House Bill 4160.
House Bill 4055 would require the Higher Education Coordination Committee to conduct surveys in order to provide recommendations on how community colleges and public universities could address food and housing insecurities.
“We recognize and are concerned by the astoundingly high level of food and housing insecurities that our students face,” the student leaders said in a letter to the House Committee on Education. “Our constituents are your constituents, and our students are in need.”
House Bill 4160 would have required a task force be established with the focus on student success among underrepresented students in higher education. The bill was spearheaded by representative Teresa Alonso León and other representatives in the house and senate.
Vanessa Robles, the State Affairs Commissioner for ASUO confirmed that members of the executive team only traveled to Salem on University day. They also ended up advocating for another bill that Pierre had brought in front of the Oregon Students Association called “The CROWN Act.”
Adopted by other states such as California, the CROWN Act would ban discrimination from employers based on hairstyle and hair texture. In Oregon, Representative Janelle Bynum included the CROWN Act in a bill that also sought to end payment discrimination.
All three bills – H.B. 4055, H.B. 4160, and the CROWN measure – ended up dying on the senate floor after senate republicans walked out.
“Both House Bill 4055 and 4160 had successful policy meetings and hearings,” Batlan said. “The walkout had a significant effect across the board.”
Batlan said that none of the bills regarding higher education made it past the senate floor.
The future of the two bills is still uncertain. After the session ended without a vote the two bills died, however, Batlan said that she expected the two bills to come back in a future session.
“The issues around food/housing insecurity, and the need to address student success for underrepresented student populations are not going away,” Batlan said in a follow-up email. “So our advocacy for these bills will not go away.”
Participants in the University Lobbying Day also did a significant amount of lobbying for the bonding to renovate Huestis Hall. Construction on campus was a part of the bill that the participants advocated for. According to Batlan, this bill did not pass.