Guest Viewpoint

(Maisie Plew/Emerald)

At the beginning of this school year, the ASUO identified a wide variety of initiatives which could be achieved, and further would ensure the basic needs of students, regardless of background and current situation. Free menstrual products, textbook subsidies, introducing a basic needs coordinator and a student advocacy coordinator, legal subsidies, a 20% increase in I-fee funded student-employee pay and emergency housing subsidies were all included in ASUO’s planned student initiatives. 

We now have a unique opportunity, which no other ASUO administration has had before, to implement all of the previously listed initiatives. This would be one of the largest and most robust introductions of student assisting programs led by ASUO in the history of the university. The current student body has a chance: a chance to make history and a chance to improve the lives of our peers without increasing tuition or the I-fee.

It would be a mischaracterization to state that these programs can be implemented for free. However, the ASUO Executive – in conjunction with the Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee, ASUO Senate and input from a wide variety of students — has identified a proposal to ensure a seamless transition of funding that would allow for immediate implementation of the previously listed initiatives. 

The source of funding would be the ASUO’s contract with the Athletics Department, which currently amounts to $1,729,255. Students pay the Athletics Department more than $1.7 million every year so a handful of students can receive “free” game day tickets. About $1.6 million of the total contract pays for football tickets, and a majority of the rest goes to tickets for men’s basketball.

With such an impactful and large initiative at hand, we want to be frank with the student body, as transparency has been at the heart of this ASUO administration. Cutting this contract to create new basic needs programs would require our campus to change how students receive tickets to games. To start, this will mean student game day tickets will no longer be “free” to acquire. 

But to be clear, these tickets are not free, nor have they ever been free. Right now, each student at the University of Oregon who pays the I-fee is paying $25.50 a term for game day tickets, but is not guaranteed a single football or men’s basketball ticket. In fact, UO students pay some of the highest ticket prices in the country for their student tickets. The high provided by the thrill of attending any Ducks game is real and stunning, but it should not prevent efforts to help each other when we are in need.

Continuing in the theme of frankness, the conundrum and true operations of student tickets must be enumerated in a clear and understandable manner. As stated before, student tickets are not free; every student pays for them through our I-fee. The translation of I-fee to student tickets results in a sale 80% of market value, but the fee of doing so is thrust upon all students regardless of their interest in attending sporting events. Surely, there can be a more equitable way to use a mandatory fee that is placed on top of an already extremely expensive investment. The Athletics Contract has essentially required every single student to buy football tickets, while students are struggling to buy textbooks. In the eyes of ASUO, this is an injustice.

The University of Oregon culture is rooted in community and school spirit. Free sporting tickets surely reflect this, but refusing desperately needed, long overdue services to thousands of our fellow students is the antithesis of what it means to be a Duck. We all saw, and continue to see, what happens in our college community, state and nation when we are underprepared for the worst of times. It would be inept if we refuse to acknowledge the errors and lack of preparedness to sustain our community during a pandemic. Therefore, it would be abhorrent if we refused to increase our investment in the betterment of our community — whether during a global disaster or because one individual is experiencing financial hardship. 

The ASUO will increase our investment in the UO community by $1729255 through offering $325,000 in textbook subsidies, helping students facing financial hardships with purchasing course materials and planting the seed which will perpetually grow an ASUO book bank for generations to come; grant highly trafficked bathrooms a supply of thousands of menstrual products, providing instant support for students with this basic need regardless of gender identity; hire a full-time professional Basic Needs Coordinator, providing any student who needs support applying for financial support programs, developing plans for managing personal finances, understanding cost of living standards in the Eugene area and other obstacles students face when securing basic needs; hire a full-time professional Advocacy Coordinator coupled with a $100,000 subsidy for student legal fees, allowing the coordinator to work directly with students in need of legal counsel to find the perfect individualized resource in the community; provide $150,000 in student emergency housing subsidies, allowing for crucial housing security for any student who qualifies for a single financial assistance program; and increasing all I-fee-funded student-employee wages by 20% (or $15.30) as the base starting wage. A much more adequate reflection of the cost of living in Eugene, and a long overdue raise for the tireless and oftentimes thankless work of student employees. 

We want to ensure that every student has the support they need to pursue higher education opportunities. We want to increase the retention of all students at the university. To do this, we must always re-evaluate our programs and priorities. We must choose care, and compassion – vigorously. 

The purpose of ASUO is to provide for the social, cultural, educational and physical development of its members, and for the advancement of their individual and collective interests. In 2021, ASUO is prioritizing the basic needs of students. With the I-fee funds entrusted to us by the student body, we feel obliged to fund services that help ensure all students have the opportunity to pursue their social, cultural, educational and physical development at UO.

Sincerely,

Isaiah Boyd - ASUO President 

Semeredin Kundin - ASUO Vice President

Claire O’Connor - ASUO Senate President

Natalie Fisher - ASUO Senate Vice President

Annika Mayne - ACFC Chair, ASUO Senate Seat 7

Heather Barclay - ACFC Vice Chair, At Large 3

Jonathan Laus - ACFC At Large 1

Josue Mendoza - ACFC At Large 2