With students returning to Southern Oregon University for the beginning of yet another year, student government is once again roaring into action, fresh from summer training and ready to start anew.
“There’s a lot of issues on campus that have never been dealt with before,” said Hassan Harris, Associated Students of Southern Oregon University president. “We want to bring this to the attention of the students, we feel that we owe them that much.”
Right now ASSOU is in what Harris refers to as the “issue identifying” stage, with the organization trying to determine which issues students are most passionate about through an online survey. The survey covers a wide range of topics, gauging student opinions on everything from tutoring options to library hours.
“What we do is, and nobody’s ever done this before, but we call it issue choosing,” said Harris. “We go around and ask our constituents what issues are important.”
So far approximately 100 students have responded to the survey, although Harris is hoping for 800.
“Whether one person spoke or 800, the point is that somebody spoke up,” he said, saying the survey would be up for at least a month.
Harris said that the organization has worked hard to overcome the internal struggles and personality conflicts from last year, which resulted in 13 resignations from Senate, two resignations from the Judicial Branch, and three resignations from the Executive Branch over the course of the year. Harris said that a combination of teamwork exercises, communication workshops, and dialogue between branches have helped to resolve many of last year’s issues.
“We’re reorganizing the whole of ASSOU,” said Harris. “Implementing new accountability standards, changing rapport between people, between the student body and student government.”
“It’s about accountability,” he said. “There wasn’t much last year, but there will be this year. This year is about accountability.”
“We wanted to create a shared vision for the organization,” said Jazmin Roque, ASSOU Speaker of the Senate. “As an organization we just want to move forward, to use the past to help move us forward.”
“For the most part, the issues from last year have been resolved, ” she said. “Direct communication has been our most effective tool in resolving those issues.”
While ASSOU was mostly occupied with trainings and workshops over the summer, the organization also sent representatives to the Oregon Student Association and the United States Student Association, giving SOU students a voice at both the state and national levels.
ASSOU was also involved with the planning process for several school programs over the summer, including taking over responsibility from administration for the Textshare program on campus, pushing for affordable textbooks (see “Rebellion”), and getting student input on the planned student recreation center.
According to Harris, ASSOU’s next big campaign is Vote OR Vote, Oregon’s largest and most successful student vote drive. Also in the works are bike racks to be installed in family housing and a possible blood drive during Spring term, as well as revamping the SOURS Student Leadership Center into a more student-accessible leadership center.
“I think that ASSOU can be more than just student government,” said Harris. “We want to get rid of the apathy on campus.”