OPINION: From ASUP elections to our campus community

By Kaya Olson and Kianna Storm | March 17, 2024 4:00pm

Photo courtesy of Kianna Storm and Kaya Olson.

Hello, University of Portland students. How does being a Pilot make you feel? Are you glad that you chose this university? Do you have frustrations with this institution that feel bigger than yourself? We are Kianna Storm (ASUP vice president) and Kayako Olson (ASUP president), and we want all students to be proud to be Pilots.

That doesn't mean blindly thinking that this school is perfect — because it’s not. In our positions, we have had the privilege to be in spaces where we have a school-wide perspective on resources, issues, communications and more. Our goal is to share what we have learned in a way that empowers all of you.

The University of Portland prides itself on its tight-knit community. However, there seems to be a trend of declining participation when it comes to campus activities and community building. The stands are emptier, clubs are smaller and, overall, fewer resources are being utilized. The community is not serving every Pilot as it should be — but we want it to.

This past year, we have been working on uplifting and responding to student voices by making an effort to hear what you have to say and the changes you want to see. There are small examples of this, from expanding library hours, to advertising free pool access for all students, to getting an artist of color to headline Rock the Bluff. While seemingly small, these actions are all part of a greater effort to work on what students need. ASUP is also working towards larger goals like explicitly including gender identity in the school's non-discrimination policy, as well as monumental policies that shape the future of the university into an institution of which we will be proud to be alumni. We are all working on things that are larger than us. With all our efforts, there is always more work to be done.

The privilege of being a part of ASUP means always looking out for problems that may not personally affect us. Making decisions that impact our greater community is crucial. Maybe you’ve seen our senators at P-House who have listening ears, or maybe you have been asked to write a suggestion in exchange for some muffins. From this, we know that many students want longer passing periods, more events, increased social media outreach and different food options. None of these things will be solved overnight, but because you have told us what you want, steps are being taken to meet these desires. We couldn’t do it without student participation — because what is student government if the students are silent?

Both of us are graduating in the spring and do not have all the answers for what’s to come — and we know that we live in a rapidly changing world. AI is a new factor in academics, and there are changing expectations for what clubs need and how we can actively fight towards dismantling systems of oppression that are prevalent in this community. None of this is easy to tackle and this is never for one person to handle alone. ASUP as an organization aims to approach these issues through collaboration both within and outside of our senate. 

We have been able to see firsthand the impact that ASUP and student voices can have on this university. Last year, students voted to raise the activities fee by $20, which will provide an additional $100,000 for clubs and services to work with. Not only will this money have a significant impact, but the students who request it, allocate it, spend it and benefit from it will have the opportunity to change our campus for the better.

Our hope for the University is that the UP community becomes even stronger with amplified student voices, more diversity, increased communication between administration, organizations and students, more participation and an overwhelming understanding that everyone is welcome here.

Our hope for you as you read this is to know that there is power in being a student, power in getting involved and power in actively participating in our community. While the Bluff is not perfect, we all have an opportunity to make it better for ourselves and future generations. ASUP elections are held March 19 and 20 on Engage, which is an easy way to start making an impact on campus. You deserve the candidates that you want to represent and serve you. The only way to make that happen is by voting.

Kaya Olson is the ASUP president. She can be reached at olsonk24@up.edu.

Kianna Storm is the ASUP vice president. She can be reached at stormk24@up.edu.

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