It’s that time of year again at the University of Oregon. The Candidate Town Hall Debate for this year’s ASUO election featured two slates: United UO and Ducks Together. Polls open on Duckweb on Monday, April 9 at 9 a.m. and results will be published on Thursday, April 12 at 6 p.m. While both slates have many similarities, there are a few key differences that swayed my support toward United UO.

United UO isn’t the Status Quo

The first key difference is that none of United UO’s candidates currently hold an ASUO office position; Ducks Together does. Maria Gallegos — currently sitting in Seat 13 in the Senate and running for ASUO President — touted the experience of her and her running mate for internal ASUO VP, Imani Dorsey, several times throughout the debate. It should also be noted that the external ASUO VP candidate for Ducks Together, Ivan Chen, is currently the ASUO organizing director.

ASUO town hall debate. (Adam Eberhardt/Emerald)

Jacob Faatz, ASUO presidential candidate with United UO, doesn’t have ASUO experience. Neither does Karishma Shah, ASUO VP candidate with United UO. It doesn’t take experience to come up with good ideas, such as additional lighting either on or near campus to improve safety. That being said, Faatz isn’t without political experience. He has internship experience with Senator Ron Wyden’s field office, which he brought up in an effort to show that he has transferable skills that would help him serve our campus. When he brought this experience up, Gallegos mocked him, saying she wasn’t running for a position with the City of Eugene.

United UO Wants to Keep You Safe

As previously mentioned, Faatz wants more lighting to provide safer routes for students. On the other hand, Ducks Together brushed off this idea, asserting that the crimes were mostly off campus. This commentary disregards student safety, especially considering the close proximity of the crimes to campus. Notably, one of the crimes that recently occurred on March 17 was not even one block away from campus. Before the crime was reported, I drove around most of the streets that border our campus. What I saw were several minimally lit streets; it was barely safe for a car. When I decided to go for a walk along these streets, I stumbled along some of the uneven sidewalk due to a lack of lighting.

One of the worst areas for lighting was around the East Campus Houses and 19th and Alder, both just down the street from the site of the sexual assault on March 17. When asked how she would handle the allocation of ASUO funds, Gallegos said that campus was “already lit and super expensive to change. … that, to me, is wasteful.”

Faatz stated he wanted to work with the City of Eugene, pointing out that UO students are a major economic resource for the city. Last month, I made the same suggestions as Faatz regarding lighting and working with the City of Eugene. In regards to the university’s Title IX policies, Faatz made the distinctions that “they’re not policies; they’re called guidelines.” He wants to work with the university to turn these guidelines into structured policies.

United UO Wants to Get Things Done

When asked by a student during open questions how each slate will accomplish their goals, as these positions are only one year long, United UO pointed out that it wants to focus on safety, parking and housing. It wants to help students push back against housing companies that take gross advantage of students.

When it comes to parking, United UO wants to work with the university to improve parking conditions because students shouldn’t have to rely on the local bus system. This is extremely important when students have exams and study late at night. The bus system stops operating before the Knight Library closes at 2 a.m., and students aren’t able to park on campus past midnight. This creates a dangerous situation where students may be walking alone at night.

Ducks Together slate members (from left to right) Imani Dorsey and Maria Gallegos speak at town hall debate. (Frankie Benitez/Emerald)

Ducks Together’s answer made me uneasy. In short, they implied that the nine-month academic year was short and not everything can get done. The slate stated that it wanted to “plant seeds,” adding that the administration “takes advantage” of the annual turnover due to the nature of the ASUO executive offices. United UO fired at Ducks Together by stating, “We will do more than advocate; we will act.”

Both slates talked a great deal about diversity, but little about intellectual diversity. For many on campus, this is an important aspect due to the nature of their unpopular views. Students with such views have told the Daily Emerald they have been harassed for them. Luckily, these students can rest easy knowing that there is a slate that I feel would be more likely to protect them if this continued.

While Faatz sided with the students when asked about UO President Michael Schill’s New York Times column, he also said that “opposing views should be respected” and that we shouldn’t “scream and yell” at those we disagree with. As a student who has been harassed for having opposing views, I would feel safer on campus with Jacob Faatz as ASUO President. It takes a lot of patience, respect and self control to be such a person. That is far more valuable than being an insider with experience and having little to show for it.

Students Need to Consider Their Priorities

It’s time for students at the University of Oregon to make a decision –– one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you are still unsure about which of the two slates to vote for, I urge you not to shrug this off. While a school election might sound silly to make such a big deal of, it just might be the difference between being safe on campus and not. At the very least, we should consider our priorities and choose which slate appeals to us best. I value safety for every student, regardless of race, color, gender, preference or affiliation. That’s why I firmly believe that United UO is the slate to vote for this year.