Every Wednesday, student organizations line up to make financial requests to the ASUO Senate. Specifically, they request funds from the budget surplus to pay for an event or keynote speaker they want to invite. University of Oregon College Republicans Media/PR/Webmaster McKenna Sjoden says, “The most frustrating organization on this campus is ASUO.”
Sjoden continues, “Their bias towards left-leaning groups does not go unnoticed, and obtaining funds for anything is impossible for groups like College Republicans and Turning Point USA.” At first, this seemed a little far-fetched, but then I heard about a more recent incident.
On January 31, 2018, Turning Point USA (TPUSA) President Khang Ngo approached the ASUO Senate for funding. TPUSA was requesting $3,000 to host former 2016 Libertarian Presidential Primary Candidate Austin Petersen as a keynote speaker. According to the Senate Minutes, Petersen was invited to “talk about free speech, free markets, free things” and to “bring a more diversity to thought to campus.”
Ngo describes TPUSA as “a non-partisan group on campus, believing in free markets and free speech.” According to the national website, its “mission is to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.” Due to its 501(c)3 status, the IRS’s definition of such confirms it is nonpartisan.
Regarding funding an event where Austin Petersen, who is now running for US Senate in Missouri, would be the keynote speaker, External ASUO Vice President Vickie Gimm said, “ASUO cannot fund political campaigns, or candidates, if you look at GTN pg. 80, etc.” According to the Senate Minutes, “Gimm recited the definition that cannot fund political campaigns, or support that.” Gimm also excoriated Ngo’s description of the organization, claiming that TPUSA wasn’t nonpartisan.
Challenge and denial from ASUO
Senator Alex Pear (Seat 4 – EMU Board) asked Ngo, “The speaker is running for senate in Missouri, how will a candidate from Missouri benefits students from the UO?” Additionally, the Green Tape Notebook (GTN) goes against her claim in stating that “Fees may be used to promote appearances and discussions between several candidates for public office, in order to increase student knowledge of issues and candidates.” Pear’s question as well as the GTN proves Gimm’s assertion was baseless.
The Senate Minutes stated that the “leadership advisor” reiterated that ASUO funding was possible since Petersen, not his campaign, would be paid for his appearance. There is nothing in the GTN that states Petersen himself couldn’t be paid; it clearly reads, “No incidental fees may be spent to support the campaign.”
It is no surprise that the ASUO Senate voted unanimously to “exhaust the speakers list” as well as to “table this request indefinitely.” Senator Pear’s reason was that TPUSA needed to fundraise from more sources.
Senator Pear never stated how much TPUSA needed to raise, making it unclear why she made such an argument. The Senate Minutes leaves one to speculate that Pear had no rationale for it other than to prevent a Libertarian from speaking on campus.
ASUO approved a left-leaning speaker
When asked about the denial, TPUSA Vice President and political science major at UO Michael Kraan described Petersen as “a pro-LGBT conservative.” He also mentioned that LGBTQA3 was approved for $34,000 — more than 11 times the amount requested by TPUSA — to host transgender former Army private Chelsea Manning. According to the Senate Minutes from November 29, 2017, Kraan’s statement was not only true, the Vote Tracker confirmed that the $34,000 was unanimously approved.
The Senate Minutes show that the request was made by the current ASUO Organizing Director and soon to be External VP Ivan Chen, who is listed on OrgSync as one of the Presidents of LGBTQA3. No questions challenging Chen were asked. In fact, Senator Pear seconded the motion to approve the request. Chen gave an exhaustive plan with $6,000 of fundraising. Regardless, the fact remains that LGBTQA3 was approved to receive $34,000 for its partisan speaker at the Hult Center.
Manning filed to run in the Maryland Democratic Primary for US Senate on January 13, 2018, just weeks before Ngo was ridiculed by External VP Gimm for partisanship. It’s important to note that the $34,000 was returned due to an action of Manning’s that LGBTQA3 disapproved of in the same meeting that TPUSA was denied. In other words, Senator Pear’s harsh scrutiny was unmerited since it obviously wasn’t due to a lack of funding.
ASUO needs to remain unbiased
If the ASUO wants to truly serve the entire student body, it first needs to allow free speech to all of its student groups. It is reprehensible to think that the same people who would march and likely organize a walkout in support of free speech would deny funding to a student organization for attempting to exercise its free speech, especially since they disagree politically. A biased student government does not deserve to be in power.
Conservative students at the UO are already marginalized enough by the unfair enforcement of university policies by its administrators. It’s time for the university to accept and serve all students, not just those that votes the same way. Soon to be ASUO President Maria Gallegos also voted to deny funding from TPUSA. Gallegos should take this opportunity after taking office to extend an olive branch in espousing a mutual respect for diversity of thought.