Lindsey Nguyen, a second-year student at the university, said she didn’t know what ASUO is.
“It seems hard to represent so many students with so many different interests and backgrounds,” Nguyen said after learning about what ASUO does.
Avery Fawcett, a second-year student, said she was surprised that ASUO manages a budget of $17 million in student fees.
“I’d definitely like to see more open and public campaigning around campus,” Fawcett said.
ASUO’s notoriety is low. In recent years, ASUO has been somewhat of an unknown group to the majority of students at the University of Oregon
“Voting turnout in ASUO has been abysmal, less than 5% of folks turn out to vote,” Senator Kezia Setyawan said about spring voting in ASUO. Voting for ASUO positions begins in mid April. “That is something to sit on after budget season, to reconsider what these tactics are and build voter awareness about where their dollars are going.”
The lack of awareness about ASUO is nothing new. In the spring of 2017, only 4% of the student body voted in the ASUO executive elections. According to an article published by the Emerald at the time, “A poll found that 82% of students did not feel informed about what ASUO does.”
But students’ votes have an influence over the allocation of a large budget. Every year, student incidental fees are pooled into a budget for ASUO to distribute as it sees fit. Each student taking classes at the university pays $259.25 in incidental fees, according to the Office of the Registrar. This year’s incidental fee pool came out to around $17 million. If a guest speaker is invited or an event is put on around campus by the student groups, ASUO must approve the funds necessary to make it happen. ASUO also puts on a street fair twice a year.
Setyawan serves on ASUO Senate’s Programs Finance Committee, working closely with student groups to ensure they receive the funding they need. She detailed the ways in which she attempts to assist each organization with its financial business, citing a “cheat sheet” that she created for student groups to access many tools to help them through the budgeting process.
While many individual students don’t see ASUO as a large part of the school, student groups interact with ASUO senate and executive members weekly. The budget process for the student groups on campus begins in the fall. This means that these groups will likely spend the coming weeks opening a dialogue with senators that sit on the Programs Finance Committee. The PFC is responsible for the oversight of the 160 ASUO-recognized student organizations.
“Around fall/winter, I know that I get a lot more folks coming into the office. That’s when I get a lot more interaction through [my ASUO role].” Setyawan said about her experience with student interaction, which is mostly limited to the members of student groups. “I think ASUO can always do a better job engaging the student body. I also want to recognize that ASUO folks are students as well, and the capacity we can manage at is as much as we can do.”