ASOSU should disband if it has students’ interests at heart
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 00:03
The recent controversy surrounding Representative Nick Rosoff’s apparent circumvention of Associated Students of Oregon State University election policies has once more illuminated the seemingly Byzantine-like strict rules under which our student government operates. But more importantly, it has forced into the open a conversation about the efficacy of specific ASOSU policies and the relevance of the organization itself.
Student government at Oregon State University has a long history, and the ASOSU tradition extends nearly a century. Despite its flaws, representational government stands at the apex of a human endeavor to more justly rule itself. Unfortunately, ASOSU is neither representational, nor a government, and tradition is not an adequate bulwark against necessary change.
In the midst of the controversy surrounding current ASOSU elections, now seems the best time to consider the value of our student government, and consider the possibility that we might be better off without it.
Let us first acknowledge the good they do.
Programs like SafeRide, the Office of Advocacy, Student Legal Services and the Human Services Resource Center all provide valuable services.
The members of ASOSU, by themselves and through membership in the Oregon Student Association, have lobbied in the Oregon State Legislature to lower tuition, secured passage of bonds for the construction of new buildings and expanded cultural learning opportunities on campus.
They have striven to lower student fees by presenting a remarkably decreased budget. Most importantly, they work with the faculty senate and administration to represent the voice of the students in their decision-making process.
Despite these endeavors, tuition continues to rise. The administration has denied the feasibility or wisdom of a tuition freeze. And despite lowering student fees, each student is still expected to pony up more than $400 a term.
Tellingly, even ASOSU seems unsure of its purpose, stating that while its function is to serve the needs of all students, it does so by focusing its advocacy on specific communities and by building relationships between student groups. I have the sense that these specific goals would be better served by student liaisons, not a government with a budget that exceeds $1 million.
If ASOSU really is an organ of the students, then one ought to see a more-or-less equal distribution of the student population represented by ASOSU. Indeed, while ASOSU apes the bicameral system of the federal government with a senate and house of representatives, each member of the legislature is elected from the student body at large, without a specific constituency to whom he or she is beholden.
Student organizations have little or no voice in the body itself. Members of the Residents Hall Association and the Panhellenic Council, for example, are excluded from legislative decisions-making. Though, with fully 80 percent of ASOSU’s members pledged to a fraternity or sorority, I suspect that Greek life doesn’t really need the additional voice and makes me wonder if recent decisions by the ASOSU concerning the First Year Experience were made without undue bias.
More worrying is the endemic lack of participation in yearly elections. With a student body of 26,000, less than 1,900 people voted for their current government. Even by the apathetic standards of federal and state elections, a turnout of 7.5 percent seems like anything but representational. Moreover, despite claiming to be the voice of the students, ASOSU remains impotent in the face of administrative intransigence.
On the face of it, ASOSU seems to rubber stamp administrative policies, and upon further inspection, turns out to be incapable of implementing its own legislature.
So we have to ask ourselves, is it worth remaining part of the Oregon Student Association and spending more than $75,000 a year to lobby a state legislature intent on continually hiking our tuition?
Is it worth spending more than $200,000 on the salaries of a student government whose only function seems to be “building relationships” and funding poorly utilized services, held hostage to the special interests of groups comprising less than 10 percent of the student body?
Should we spend more than $1 million a year on an organization styling itself a student government, but incapable of governing, and failing even to represent the student body in general?
No. Instead, I propose ASOSU be disbanded. If the services it provides are deemed necessary, they ought instead to be paid out of student incidental fees, without the waste of ASOSU oversight. A voluntary representational body drawn from each student organization, with membership caps, can serve in place of ASOSU and perform the same function at a far lower cost.
ASOSU had its time. If it truly believes in lowering student costs, and truly has the interests of students in mind, it should willingly disband and stop wasting all our money.