ASUO Presidential Candidate Katie Quínes speaks at the ASUO debate. (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.”

As much as we want to promise students that we can slow the increases in tuition, I think that UO is Yours, more than other slates, wants to be brutally transparent with students-- the ASUO President and VP positions are, at their core, advocacy positions. While this question asks us to to “write something beyond ‘pressure administrators to not increase tuition and encourage legislators to increase state funding’,” it is hard to satisfy that request while also being truthful to voters. We do promise that we will continue funding bussing efforts to send students to Salem, to rally student power, and to fight tooth and nail in both Johnson Hall and the capitol for low tuition-- but we won’t pretend to have the power to bend Schill to our will, or to make a cruel Salem listen to student constituents it mistakenly sees as whiny ATMs. What sets UO is Yours apart is that we’re the only slate that is willing to recognize the limits of the ASUO Exec positions, and that we’ve taken that explicitly into account when building our platform. We wanted to make sure that our slate has fall-back proposals that students can rely on when Salem turns its back on us. These include a new meal point donation program called No Duck Hungry, so that the 6,800 (a growing number as tuition rises) food insecure students on campus don’t have to worry about being able to find their next meal, and a free, open-source textbook development pilot program to mitigate the rising costs of educational materials that further exacerbate the effects of rising tuition.

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

First, we want to advocate for more students to make the trek to Salem so that lawmakers see who their decisions affect, face to face. It’s hard to rationalize a steady increase while staring down the fact that students may have to skip meals, take on more jobs, or even leave school as a result of rising tuition. We want student voices alongside ours to make the biggest impact possible on lawmakers. However, we are aware that these trips require a flexible schedule, which is difficult for the students who work long hours to be able to afford tuition in the first place. We want to make UO decisions more accessible and transparent rather than to simply hold a space for ASUO exec members to feel like powerful lawmakers.

We hope to hold workshops that promote financial and academic transparency, laying out all the hard facts in an accessible manner to all students. Because not everyone can attend these meetings, we also hope to send out consistent emails and announcements detailing exactly what we do in ASUO and how we are tackling big issues such as tuition and academics. We also plan to have a stronger presence, both on campus and virtually. We want our names and faces known so that students can talk with us anytime, anywhere, about pertinent issues at UO.

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

(Editor's note: UO is Yours did not provide an answer to this question). 

-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?

We hope to collaborate with the administration on issues that are important, but less contentious than others. We think that the administration would likely be very interested in finding non-economic ways to mitigate issues that are harming students’ quality of life, such as student hunger, feeling misrepresented or underrepresented in terms of diversity, and the need for increasing donor-funded scholarships for students facing financial hardship as a result of rising tuition. However, we never want to placate the administration at the expense of misrepresenting or ignoring students’ real concerns, an issue that we think has been prevalent in the past. We want to start having town halls to gain a greater understanding of students’ opinions on various topics, and we want to increase social media presence so that we can gather online responses from students about issues we have to discuss with admin. We quite literally want to bring their voices to the table-- even printing out real student responses to issues to be read with permission, verbatim, to admin. We want to be clear that we aren’t monarchs of the student body-- ASUO Exec is YOUR mouthpiece, a megaphone for YOUR concerns, and not a ruling presence.

-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?

After reading a report from the Government Accountability Office that states that over 30% of college students nationwide are food insecure, our slate knew that fighting for the 6,800+ students who are struggling to eat on this campus right now needed to be a priority of the UO is Yours campaign. In a year where the university is facing an $11 million dollar budget crisis and is putting the burden of the crisis on the backs of its most vulnerable students, we know that the newest and most hard-fought-for programs like the Student Food Pantry are likely the first to be cut. First, we promise to secure and institutionalize funding for the Student Food Pantry and to shield it from university cuts, but second, we recognize that the pantry is still underfunded and struggles to serve the staggering number of food insecure students at UO. That’s why we’re starting a complementary program called No Duck Hungry, a new pilot program where students can choose to donate excess dining hall meal points to a pool of funds that can be redistributed discreetly to food insecure students, who can get meals or groceries on campus, even if they’re not housed in the dorms. We firmly believe that no student should have to choose between taking the credits they need to graduate and fulfilling their basic, fundamental needs.

-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?

We believe that transparency, above all, should remain our primary focus in instances like these. We plan to announce departures from ASUO administration within 1 week of the member’s departure. This is an effective amount of time so that students remain informed on the processes of ASUO, but also gives administration enough time to effectively respond to the situation at hand. This announcement will also give students the opportunity to know when opportunities to get involved arise and allow them to find positions they may be passionate about serving in. We hope to find new students who are not already in ASUO to serve in positions that are typically kept for a stagnating leadership.

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

Up until about three months ago, I (Gracia) didn’t know the name of our current ASUO president. We think that the names and faces of ASUO representatives ought to be public and well-known. We are representatives of student government 100% of the time, and we want to serve as student advocates that folks feel comfortable coming to regardless of the time, location, or setting. We want to have conversations with students about ASUO’s work with as many students as possible, so that they feel as thought their voice is being amplified, not silenced.

Additionally, we hope to host forums and workshops that allow for students to become informed as to where their money goes and what our priorities are. Our incidental fee should represent investment into what all students decide is necessary on campus, rather than just a select few choosing what they think is consequential. Our internet presence is going to be much more prominent as well, giving access to those who might not be able to make it to every meeting or forum. We want to meet students where they are at, and provide an open and honest dialogue 100% of the time.

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

Our campaign advocates for many explicitly non-economic policies that do not put any budgetary burden onto the ASUO, but do solve problems while we regain financial stability. For example, we advocate for No Duck Hungry, which utilizes students unused and donated meal points to provide food to students in need. Another great example of a non-economic initiative is advocating for students to sit on faculty hiring committees, allowing for faculty to better represent the students they teach. We believe tangible and concrete initiatives like these allow for us to make strong progress in mitigating huge issues that the University of Oregon faces.

Additionally, we plan to stay on top of the budget and refuse to let any number go unnoticed throughout the year. Fiscal responsibility is a huge priority of ours and we plan to hold ourselves accountable to plan a budget that we stick to for the rest of the year rather than making unrestricted and unplanned changes.

Inclusivity and diversity

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

UO is Yours believes that diversity ought to mean more than a hollow buzzword to the administration, and that tangible, concrete resources and coalition-building procedures are necessary to legitimately addressing the concerns of traditionally marginalized students. We’re a small slate, but a slate composed of many identities-- we’re all-women, with a woman of color as our presidential candidate, and we’re of backgrounds that are immigrant, first-generation student, queer, and more. To us, diversity is our real, lived experience, not just some word that administrators love to use as a “recruiting tool”-- it’s struggling with our own identities, fighting hard to build and empower our communities, being exhausted by being tokenized and exploited and unheard. UO is Yours wants to give tangible resources to “diverse” students, and part of that includes our initiative to get students onto hiring committees so that students get a say in building a university made of faculty that look like us, faculty that recognize us. We believe in making diverse coalitions at the level of the executive cabinet, where we will preserve the anti-racist advocate cabinet position, the gender and sexuality advocate position, and the disabled students advocate position. As part of our sexual violence prevention initiatives, we also want to build a taskforce that addresses concerns about sexual violence on campus, and to bring in diverse perspectives that have been traditionally left out of the conversation surrounding sexual violence-- i.e. queer, non-cis, indigenous, and non-white students.

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

We believe that as long as students’ existences are being respected, healthy dialogue can continue to be promoted. We also believe that students deserve to be angry when other folks’ discourse actively denies them their fundamental rights. We believe in upholding freedom of speech, but that hateful speech should not be tolerated at a university, and is not tolerated under federal law. We are more than willing to have productive and diverse conversations when both sides have equal footing.

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

We believe that the Senate took into account all student voices during the debate between pro and anti-BDS advocates. Student senators voted yes to represent what they best believed was the dominant student voice, and has since been struck down as it was found unconstitutional under UO guidelines. It is essential to recognize when concerns regarding anti-semitism arise, however, we believe that advocating for Palestinian freedom is not inherently anti-semitic. Since 2016, hate crimes against all marginalized groups have increased, and many students feel unsafe when, for example, literal nazis come to campus and harass students. We take the concerns of Jewish students incredibly seriously, and we want to take their voices into account while simultaneously recognizing the often-erased voices of Palestinian refugees who too feel fearful on campus. Taking concerns into account from Jewish students as well as Palestinians will ensure that we hear the voices of students to make decisions that best protect and support our student body.

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.

As a slate, we personally support House Bill 3388, which would effectively bar UO and PSU police officers from carrying firearms outside of their police department facilities. We believe that the university has an imperative to consider that student safety is often framed in a way that fails to acknowledge different communities’ relationship to policing; students of color, queer students, disabled students, and houseless students often have historically poor relationships with police, and knowing that officers are armed may harm their ability to feel safe on campus that is supposed to support all students. We firmly believe that the incident last May when UOPD pulled a gun in the EMU on a Filipino student wrongfully accused of breaking into a construction site should never happen again.

(Editor's note: UO is Yours' statement regarding the incident involving a UO student having a gun drawn on him by a UOPD officer is inaccurate. A member of the Eugene Police Department, not the UOPD, drew his weapon on a student outside of the EMU. Read more about the incident here.) 

However, while we personally support Disarm UOPD movements, if elected, we refuse to project our personal politics as the voice of the student body without actively assessing the body’s collective concerns. Of course, our politics deeply inform our decision-making, but we understand that some students do have very real concerns about officers’ ability to respond quickly to a potential armed shooter event-- a cruel reality of the American situation. We believe that the rise of H.B. 3388 indicates that there needs to be more conversation about policing coming from the executive level of student leadership, and conversation that addresses both the reality of school gun violence and the lived experiences of marginalized students.

-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?

As members of greek life, we are aware that the institution has not had a favorable name in terms of its involvement of sexual assault and hazing. We are also aware that greek life can give students a huge sense of community, academic motivation, and a strong support system. We cannot promise that we can stop every instance of violence at greek events, however we do want to ensure that students have access to resources that will mitigate that violence, and promise that students will be held accountable for their actions.

Both of us are unapologetically survivor-centered in our approach to sexual violence prevention on campus, and we vow to secure funding for Saferide and DDS and continue SVP education on campus. The Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team on campus (that is now disbanded) specifically focused on how to best reach different groups on campus-- the greek life script encompassed how to keep everyone safe best especially in terms of greek events. Reinstating an SVP taskforce is essential to revamping SVP on campus and keeping students safe.

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