More than 50 students got their first taste of student government at the ASUO Kickoff meeting Tuesday. The event served as a forum for President Ben Eckstein @@ his staff to present their goals and ideas for the year.

The issues Eckstein’s staff will pursue this year include creating a more diverse campus, increasing transparency in the athletic department, giving students a say in setting tuition and increasing college accessibility on a state and national level.

Sophie Luthin,@@ the executive’s environmental advocate, said that 70 percent of University students are white and emphasized the importance of a diverse campus community.

“We’re trying to focus on faculty diversity,” Luthin explained.

ASUO Communications Director Andrew Rogers introduced “Students First,” the executive’s campaign to form a more “healthy athletics department.”@@

Rogers recalled the work of the 2004 Athletics Task Force, convened by then University President Dave Frohnmayer.@@ Rogers said the group’s recommendations, which included a variety of administrative reforms, were never implemented.

“We’re going to be working on collaborating with University administration and the athletics department to get those proposals implemented,” Rogers said.

Colleen Soles, ASUO events coordinator, spoke on behalf of the Student Tuition Review Board, a proposal to give students a voice in how tuition dollars are spent.

“All of you pay a lot of money to go here,” Soles said. “We all need to know where that money is going. We think that students should have a say in how tuition gets set and where that money goes.”

The issues presented were first considered during Eckstein’s election campaign last spring. Eckstein said that students came to him with concerns during that campaign and that he worked to integrate those concerns into this year’s action plan. The ideas selected were further refined throughout the summer and the first two weeks of this term.

In addition to the executive’s local campaigns, representatives from the Oregon Student Association and the United States Student Association spoke on behalf of their groups about their goals for the coming year. ASUO Vice President Katie Taylor@@ explained the work USSA has done in protecting the Federal Pell Grants many students rely on to pay for school.@@

In an example of national efforts moving to a local level, ASUO Sen. Jeremy Hedlund@@ introduced the Student Labor Action Project, a chapter of a national group that is closely associated with USSA in campaigning for working-class people, students and nonstudents. The University’s SLAP chapter is one of the first on the West Coast.@@

Hedlund said that SLAP is a coalition of groups that “all believe that the working class is getting screwed over right now.”

SLAP has also aligned itself with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement and the upcoming Occupy Eugene event.

“We occupy a public space and say, ‘Hey, we’re here, we’re not going to leave, and we want change right now,’” Hedlund said.

After the brief presentations, students got the opportunity to talk with individual campaign organizers and learn more about each individual project.

Jason Dudell@@, a University sophomore, had never been to an ASUO event before the kickoff meeting. After talking with presenters, he’s planning on getting involved.

“I think that it will be great hands-on experience,” Dudell said.

Eckstein was excited about the event and the possible results.

“I think that this kind of work was a central vision of our campaign,” Eckstein said. “That’s what this kickoff is about.”

Please consider donating to the Emerald. We are an independent non-profit dedicated to supporting and educating this generation's best journalists. Your donation helps pay equipment costs, travel, payroll, and more!