Democratize UO #press release

On February 8th, 2022 the Daily Emerald first reported on the decision by ASUO President Isaiah Boyd to transfer the budget and authority of the EMU out of the ASUO’s Incidental Fee budget to the University of Oregon administration. This development came out of nowhere and was not reported on until the decision was already made. The backroom deal between President Boyd and VP of Student Life Kevin Marbury had zero transparency or public discussion and surprised even the members of the ASUO Senate who were also not briefed on the move to remove the EMU from the I-Fee budget until after it had already occurred. Attempting to hand the EMU over to the admin was a striking and shocking undermining of student autonomy on this campus and must be strongly condemned.

After news of this deal came out, campus activists; including our organization and comrades from the Student Insurgent, UO Young Democratic Socialists of America, the Oregon Student Association, and Climate Justice League; quickly sprung into action to respond and unravel how this happened. Without the pressure put onto ASUO and VP Kevin Marbury, we likely would not have seen the ASUO Senate take decisive action in the 11th hour during an emergency meeting on the morning of February 18th to use their power to veto the decision. We wish to commend the ASUO Senators who voted in favor of vetoing the decision and for a resolution condemning how the deal was made.

However, we feel compelled to note that the EMU drama has helped reveal the fundamental structural failings of the ASUO to properly represent the interests of students at the University of Oregon. The institution of the ASUO was intentionally designed to limit the amount of power and voice that students have. Additionally, despite there being some well-intentioned people working within it, the ASUO often creates an environment that encourages toxicity, secrecy, and an overly-individualistic focus on the professional advancement of those involved instead of seeking to uplift the opinions and interests of the whole student body. President Boyd’s unilateral deal on the EMU and the actions of those who sought to shut down internal and external dissent in the aftermath shows that very clearly. Moreover, with its confusing structure and processes and lack of power, most students feel disconnected from the ASUO because it’s irrelevant to their daily lives. Recent elections only getting turnout in single-digit percentages is a searing indictment on the legitimacy of the institution and its limited authority. We need to work towards creating alternative avenues for students, and the wider campus community, to gain more substantive power at UO. Working towards democratizing the Board of Trustees to include directly elected students, faculty, and staff in the decision-making process at UO would be a major step in this direction. The unionization of all labor on campus, including student workers and student athletes, is also an imperative part of this overall vision for change at UO.

Finally, we must make two calls to action in the wake of this mess. Democratize UO calls for the immediate resignation of ASUO President Isaiah Boyd, ASUO Senate President Claire O’Connor, and anyone else in the ASUO who supported this decision, sought to excuse it, or tried to suppress dissent against it. They have lost the confidence of the student body and do not deserve to represent us. We also call on students who seek change to consider running for positions within the ASUO. We acknowledge that having like-minded individuals in power will not magically fix things, but it will make actions like this less likely in the future.