ASUO presidential candidate Sabinna Pierre speaks at the ASUO debate, accompanied by vice presidential candidate Montse Mendez. (Henry Ward/Emerald)

This year, the Emerald wanted to change its ASUO coverage. The news desk decided to create a questionnaire with specific issues and questions that all slates completed and returned to the Emerald. The following questions came from the Emerald newsroom as well as some responses the Emerald collected after sharing a form on social media. The Emerald did not edit the slates' responses for grammar but rather fact checked them and added editor's notes to correct any factual errors.

The goal of this questionnaire is to help readers and community members understand how each slate will address the issues facing our university so that voters can make informed decisions during election week.

— The Emerald newsroom

Fiscal and administrative issues

-Tuition costs have been increasing for years due to rising expenses at the university and stagnant support from state government. What will you do to work to slow the increases in tuition? Be specific, write something beyond “pressure administrators to not increase tuition and encourage legislators to increase state funding.”

When discussing the topic, tuition increase, we, as student leaders get a seat at the table, where we have the ability to speak on behalf of students. One thing we advocate is delaying tuition increases. This past February, “how many” students travelled Salem to lobby for state funds; eventually we realized lobbying had a limited effect on finding the solution to a long-term problem. And though we can beg state legislators for increased funded, we are choosing to bring our attention towards the allocation of money and resources by UO. When attending a Tuition and Fees Advisory Board meeting, we are able to observe how our university is funded: most notably private donors, state money, and tuition. We deserve full transparency on how those funds are being distributed, and we encompass the financial literacy to share that knowledge with you. At Ducks Empowered, one of our main goals is to ENGAGE students on the step-by-step process of their tuition distribution. We intend on holding workshops, open houses, forums, and consistent social media updates, enabling you to have an opportunity to be informed as students and ask the critical questions. We encourage and welcome students to work with us in our campaign to slow the rise of tuition costs; and we wholly believe in mobilizing our numbers, because when the time comes there is power in knowledge and in unity.

-What will you do to ensure student voices are heard in university decision-making processes, such as tuition-setting or academic requirements?

While ASUO doesn’t have direct power over these things we want students to be fully aware of decisions being made by the university and to be heard. We want to work with various student groups on campus to help educate the student population on tuition and I-Fee. Academic requirements are voted by our university’s faculty senate. We want to widely advertise their meetings as they are open to the public and more student input means more student power. In addition to educating students on the tuition and academic requirements process, we will actively be in contact with students and student leaders to understand their needs and frustrations with both processes.

-What experience do the members of your slate have with university decision-making processes?

Our slate members are extremely qualified. About half of them have ASUO experience while the other half has numerous student leadership experience on campus. Both these experiences require various decision-making in the best interest of their fellow students. Our slate members have the financial literacy skills for budgetary processes, in addition to understanding how to push for policies that benefit students. Ducks Empowered, slate members has members who have gone lobbying for higher education, members who have worked on the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board, Counseling Center Student Advisory Board, and a wide variety of student unions as well as students who have participated in activism for social justice that affects us on campus such as protecting undocumented students.

-The relationship between student leaders and university administrators has often been tense or even adversarial in the past. On what issues do you hope to work with the administration to resolve, and how do you plan to represent student voices on those issues to administrators?

Sabinna and Montse who are running for President and Vice President have previous experience working with EMU administration while they served on the EMU Board. They understand that a professional work relationship is necessary to accomplish goals and have learned skills in navigating conflicting interests. Sometimes administration does believe they have the best interests of students at heart, but because they are not students themselves and often pretty far removed from the ground, we have to remind them that we are students and we can speak best to our experiences. Of course, Sabinna and Montse also recognize their experience is not the sole experience of students on campus which is why our goal of tuition engagement with students is so crucial. It is often interesting to be asked how we are willing to work with the administration, and the question we will always ask is whether the administration is willing to work with us, and in the best interests of students - which involve a delaying tuition rise. With more specific situations, there are certain student groups who have expressed concerns to ASUO in the past about their corresponding administrators not being fully transparent or supportive of what student leaders want to accomplish with the programs they run. At Ducks Empowered, we would always be in support of students. We want to make sure their concerns are being heard and that they know they are supported by us. We believe that student leaders know what’s best for their groups because they hold identities or have experiences that are unique to their involvement with that group.

-One comment we received expressed a student’s concern with food security for people on campus. How will your slate allocate funds and resources to ensure that students are food secure?

We plan on continuing the food pantry that was started by ASUO External Vice President, Ivan Chen beginning his freshman year. The funds ASUO receives from the street fair will be distributed to the food pantry, and we will seek ways to increase their funding as well. Ducks Empowered wants to work with the university policy committee on securing the existence of the food pantry and its funding in the future. We will also partner with the Environmental Sustainability Center in their programming in place for food security, including a recent idea regarding having fridge lockers for those on campus all day are able to store food from home, and not have to necessarily buy a meal here. We would be fully in support of any upcoming food security initiatives on campus and help to find funds because we believe that no student should go hungry for trying to get an education. We believe that on some level this connects to fair student pay because when students are working multiple jobs just to stay afloat and can’t access a leadership position due to a low stipend is problematic. We don’t want students to choose to take on a leadership position, but then be food insecure because of the low stipend. For this reason, we want to push for higher stipends to compensate students for the long hours, emotional and intellectual capacity they put into their work. This would be the same for graduate employees who are asking for a livable wage which the university threatens would come at the expense of some of their healthcare benefits. We want graduate employees to have a livable wage, which would help with food security too.

-In the event that an ASUO administrative change occurs, such as a cabinet member’s firing or resignation, how and when would you tell the student body? What would you do to appoint a new cabinet member?

Ducks Empowered wants to widely advertise openings within the ASUO staff because there are vacancies that happen throughout the year. ASUO has always instated an interview process in place which we would be following in order to appoint new members whether they be going to any of our three branches - legislative, executive or constitutional. After the interview process, appointed members have to be approved by the senate and afterwards are able to start their position within ASUO.

-How would your slate specifically promote transparency and accountability in its daily work? 

Ducks Empowered wants to publicize the information regarding what actions ASUO takes. We will have constant social media updates regarding what each of the three branches (legislative, executive and constitutional court) are working on. We believe that in order to engage students with the work we do, we need to make the spaces we work in more inviting. We want to have an ASUO Awareness campaign as a part of what we do in combination with our tuition/ I-fee workshops. Part of this will also be tabling as frequently as possible. Currently, ASUO publishes a budget book every year on OrgSync with detailed budgets from all student programs and services funded that year--and all of the money is accounted for down to the penny. We believe the format of the book could be friendlier and having printed copies for students to read would also be helpful. We will post our office hours near the windows of ASUO; our representatives will more consistently be in contact with their constituents. All spending rules that our finance office has on file will be consolidated, as well as our bylaws, in an easy “How to Run Your Student Organizations Budget” book--which again exists on OrgSync archives. Its accessibility and abundance of information will be improved, mainly by having these materials in both a print and online format. This type of access will allow students to hold ASUO accountable, and student groups can find them more easily. ASUO holds public meetings for senate, but this is not widely advertised; so, as part of revamping our social media communications, this, and all ASUO related events, will be widely advertised as well as any openings for hiring and ways to get involved.

-Student fees fund the ASUO budget. How would your slate avoid any budgetary issues?

At the debate, Oregon Alliance kept bringing this up with claims that ASUO is financially irresponsible with their money. They constantly brought up that a club like Warsaw with large membership did not having “proportional” funding; it is unfair and ASUO spends on unnecessary resources. They didn’t mention what those resources were, but said that Warsaw was not funded “properly.” The Warsaw Sports Business Club has about 300 members and $800 in their annual budget. The issue is that not a lot of students know how the budget process works at ASUO. All student-run clubs have a starting annual budget of $500, but can request an increase in the future based on spending needs, history, and availability of funds based on enrollment projections that year. ASUO gets $250 per student, per term, which adds up to around $17 million. This gets re-distributed to more than 200 student organizations and services. ASUO has to work based off UO administration’s enrollment projections, which have been inaccurate in previous years, leaving ASUO to start the budget cycle at a deficit and find ways to remediate with minimal detriments to students. Luckily many organizations had leftover money from the previous year and were willing to contribute towards the deficit, covering most of it. The rest of the deficit was eliminated from a reserve that is now being refilled. One thing that was intentionally done by the EMU Board was cutting professional staff administration travel and equipment reserves to prioritize student stipends and not cut into student programming. When Warsaw or any group with a “smaller” budget needs additional funds, they can always come to the senate and request them. A few weeks ago, Warsaw came and requested $18,000 for a conference. ASUO provided $8,000 of it and supported the club in finding fundraising opportunities to help cover the rest of the costs.Our slate members will be trained effectively and will know how to respond to any budgetary difficulties that may arise. About half of our slate was in ASUO this year, and we believe their experience with solving the deficit is helpful to working with budgets. Everyone else has leadership skills across other programs and will be trained effectively. We will also be holding more frequent trainings for student leaders who run their organizations budgets during the ASUO budget process. We plan on communicating any budget difficulties as they arise and share updates on how the situations are being fixed through our constant social media updates. The deficit is one of many budgetary issues that could arise, but our slate is committed to always prioritizing student needs in the solutions as well as engaging with the general student population.

Inclusivity and diversity

-What does diversity mean to you and how will you specifically work to build a diverse coalition next year?

Diversity to us means including students from a wide variety of organizations and identities in the work we do. We have people on our slate representing different communities, perspectives, and cultures. We intend to connect and build on existing relationships. By being in constant communication with leaders from all of the traditionally marginalized identity groups, we have to ability to support their needs. If they have any concerns about their organization or ASUO, we want to work together to find the best-possible solution. We will have a seat that is designated for international students on our executive cabinet, as well as a graduate employee seat, and a mental health accessibility seat. We believe that these previously underrepresented groups at ASUO also have the right to an opinion, and look forward to building solidarity with the issues their communities face.We are open to creating further new cabinet seats and including other groups that feel underrepresented.

-The slates that are running this year say that students’ voices have been ignored over the years. What exactly does this mean, and how will you fix this problem? Please be specific and list concrete examples of actions that you will take over the course of the school year.

We are not running on the idea that student voices are being ignored. Ducks Empowered functions with a solid platform of mental health, tuition engagement, and fair student pay. We have specific ways in which we want to accomplish those goals. At Ducks Empowered, we want to prioritize mental health on this campus. It is time we create an awareness campaign, not only to de-stigmatize, but to make students aware of the services available to them. We also MUST recognize that we need more capacity and more resources. Our executive cabinet is committed to creating a seat that solely focuses on connecting to resources such as the counseling center, the duck nest, AEC and student-run organizations such as Student Mental Health Advocates. We are also wanting to move funds to increase the capacity of the counseling center, even after its renovation is done. We want to advocate to have more therapists of marginalized communities and widely advertise a resource one of our slate members created--called Commitment, Compassion and Camaraderie. In regards to what Oregon Alliance intended their statements of students being allegedly ignored by ASUO, the question above regarding budgetary issues and the one below regarding BDS would explain what they may be referring to on their platform. At Ducks Empowered, we have critiques of ASUO and the university that have led us to come up with our own platform and ways to implement it, which includes not only mental health, but the tuition engagement and fair student pay. These two goals also have specific action items which are more thoroughly discussed in two of the questions, the elections voter guide and our Ducks Empowered social media accounts.

-As student government leaders, how will you help to promote a healthy discourse in which debate can take place and different viewpoints are respected?

Ducks Empowered, hopes to have more students come to senate meetings and utilize the public forum section of the meeting, in order for them to express any ideas or concerns that they have. This is how many great conversations and ideas have started- with a wide variety of input. At Ducks empowered, we believe it is important that students feel that they can express their viewpoints and also be heard. The senate utilizes parliamentary procedure because it helps to ensure that the debate remains organized and everyone has a chance to be heard. Although there are many parliamentary procedure rules, one of them is that there’s a speakers list in the order in which people raise their hands. The other crucial rule is that no one can speak when another person has the floor to respect everyone statement. We would be glad to host events in which people hold different opinions and civil debate takes place, and everyone has an opportunity to be heard. This is how the BDS resolution hearing was held last year and senate.We want to recognize that although there are rules in place, we may need to develop a different strategy when two or more parties involved aren't demonstrating a healthy respectful debate. We would not hesitate to utilize our conflict and resolution services if a situation arises amongst student groups that needs a mediator to be resolved.

-What are your thoughts the spirit and subject matter of last year’s approved, but now overturned, Boycott, Divest and Sanction resolution?

BDS is a peaceful boycott which was inspired by the South African Apartheid movement. It was started by Palestinians, also semities, to hold the Israeli government accountable for not only violating international laws but violating human rights. In addition to holding corporations/industries who are complicit accountable. It is led by Palestinians and has three clear demands: the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes, an end to colonized settlements, and equal rights for Palestinians in Israel. The BDS resolution that was proposed to ASUO Senate last year by the group Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights and included a student who is a Palestinian refugee as well as many allies. Students who were concerned about the issue - from both different perspectives - met and discussed with multiple senators one on one about their concerns previous to the hearing. The hearing inteled about 500 students in attendance, about half of the room speaking for BDS and the other half speaking against it. Every single student was given the opportunity to speak on the matter was able to do so. The meeting lasted about four hours. The BDS was backed by about thirty different student organizations including LGBTQA3, Decolonizing Judaism, Native American Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano Aztlan. This resolution was then passed by the senate and struck down by the constitutional court - due to the financial (list of companies being boycotted) aspect of it. ASUO is held to a rule of “viewpoint neutrality” when it comes to spending. However, other resolutions such as MEChA’s “No to Measure 105” which remained because it was only a verbal statement, no finances involved. Sabinna and I stood on senate when this resolution was proposed and voted yes because we listened to our constituents, did our research, and did our jobs as senators. The hearing that took place a year ago, the passage of, and constitutional court strike down of the resolution were all part of the democratic process. It is important to note that this issue is not on our platform for our campaign, as it was one of many resolutions that currented in ASUO in the past. However, we are always open to further conversation and engagement around this issue, as well as making sure all students feel safe and heard on their campus. For Ducks Empowered, we are running on a platform of mental health, fair student pay, and tuition engagement for ALL students, and along with a recognition that these issues affecting students of marginalized identities disproportionately.

Campus safety

-What are your slate’s thoughts on the bill in the Oregon legislature that would disarm Portland State University and the UO’s police departments? Please explain your position.

Due to wanting safety on campus, we are supporting the Disarm Bill because we believe students should be safe on their university. The bill would allow (University of Oregon Police Department) UOPD to have guns but, they’d have to leave those at headquarters while patrolling campus. However, if a situation arises that requires them to need their guns, they would be entitled to bring it with them. During regular shifts, they would only be patrolling with pepper spray and a taser. For the students concerned with their safety because of the Disarm Bill, we want to emphasize that Eugene Police Department will still be armed at all times. At Ducks Empowered, we also take into consideration the concept of perceived safety. What may feel like safety to some students, doesn’t to others. For many students of marginalized identities, seeing an officer walking with a gun seemingly feels less safe. On the Portland State University (PSU) campus, a student was shot by their armed police officer. (Editor's note on Sunday, April 14: The man killed by PSU officers was not a student, but a community member. More information about the shooting can be found here.)

In order to take action, it should not take another situation similar to PSU. Both students of color and marginalized identities have the right to feel safe on their campus. It is also worth noting that UO and PSU are the only universities in Oregon with armed police forces on campus. This was only implemented a few years ago. The Disarm Bill would simply change the way the UOPD Patrols and possibly create changes to the way in which they de-escalate situations and provide opportunities for more training on de-escalation so we wouldn't have to use guns as much. To reiterate our main point, UOPD has the capability to utilize their weapons, if it is absolutely pertinent to the situation, as well as having reinforcements from the Eugene Police.

-How will your slate specifically work with representatives of the Greek life community to ensure that students are safe while participating in fraternity and sorority events?

Ducks Empowered, prioritize students safety on our campus. We will be connecting with the representatives of Greek life to find ways that ASUO and Greek life can collaborate around these issues regarding Greek life events. We want to work in collaboration with FSL’s Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force, if possible. It may be helpful to hold more frequent get explicit sessions for upperclassmen as a refresher. If any new sexual assault prevention resources are trying to get started on campus, we would fully support them and connect them with ASUO and Greek life so they can collaborate in spreading safety. We want to assist safe ride and DDS in increasing overall capacity and locking wheelchair accessible vans into university policy so these are available at all times.

Correction: This article was updated on Sunday, April 14 to include an editor's note. 

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