Latest news from the UO

  • Update from Salem: Student Success Act passes; vaccine and gun measures lose steam

    On May 13, the Oregon State Senate passed HB 3427, known as the Student Success Act, which will raise approximately $2 billion for early childhood and K-12 schools on an ongoing basis. This bill was the culmination of the work of the Joint Committee on Student Success (JCSS), which was established in January 2018. The JCSS was tasked with creating a plan to improve outcomes for students throughout Oregon. HB 3427 establishes the Fund for Student Success (FSS), the Student Investment Account (SIA), the Early Learning Account (ELA), and the Statewide Education Initiatives Account (SEIA). It requires funds to be spent on increasing learning time, decreasing class size, offering a well-rounded education, and student health or safety. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, “At least half would go to grants to state school districts for programs aimed at improving things such as graduation rates, reading levels and attendance. Around 20 percent would fund early childhood learning programs. The remaining roughly 30 percent would fund career-technical education programs and free meals at school for low-income students, among other things.” More information about the bill can be found here. The measure pays for the new investments in early childhood and K12 education through a reduction in personal income tax rates for the lowest three tax brackets in Oregon by 0.25 percent, as well as establishes a modified commercial activities tax of 0.57 percent on Oregon commercial activity over $1 million. The House passed the Student Success Act previously, so the bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for her signature and final approval. All this came on the heels of the Senate Republican Caucus denying quorum to hold up any further activity in order to negotiate a deal on other policy and budget priorities. The standoff lasted four days and resulted in the death of two controversial of pieces of legislation. The first is HB 3063, which would end non-medical vaccine exemptions. The second is SB 978, a bill that strengths several gun control laws, including safe storage, fees, carrying in public buildings and real estate (including public universities), museum transfers, and more.

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  • UO students, faculty lobby for higher education funding at state Capitol

    First published in the Register Guard, more than 100 University of Oregon students, faculty and alumni traveled to Salem last week for UO Lobby Day to push state lawmakers for more higher education funding this legislative session. It was the biggest turnout for the UO’s annual event in the past few years with 115 UO stakeholders who got involved, about half of which were students. “We try and be strategic based on committee. So of course we meet with the Eugene legislative delegation,” said Libby Batlan, associate vice president of state and community affairs for the UO. “We also target members on the joint committee on Ways and Means, budget writing committee, and House and Senate Education Policy committee.” The purpose of the trip was two-fold: to make the case to lawmakers to invest in UO to keep tuition affordable and to explain the impact of the UO on the legislators’ districts — whether it be the number of students from their district who attend UO, the businesses who contribute or benefit from partnerships and student spending, etc. “So helping legislators understand the broader impact of the university and the footprint the university has on the state and rely reinforcing the direct connection between state funding and college affordability,” said Hans Bernard, assistant vice president for state affairs at UO. Batlan said they begin planning this event six months in advance, but this year the state Capitol was more crowded than expected with people lobbying for education funding. K-12 teachers across the state flooded Salem after holding local rallies in Portland, Eugene and Bend as they walked out of class to protest the need for more funding. The two groups and interests didn’t clash though, said Batlan, because UO’s lobbying efforts ended about the time K-12 teachers started rallying on the Capitol steps. However, the day did take a turn when Senate Republican legislators staged a walkout of their own from the Senate floor May 6 to avoid voting on the Student Success Act, which would earmark $2 million per biennium for Oregon’s public schools through a proposed half a percent tax on businesses. Senate Republicans ended a weeklong walkout Monday and returned to the Oregon Capitol after the governor and Democratic leadership agreed to major concessions. Republicans returned to the Senate, and the chamber was able to approve a $1 billion per year school funding tax by an 18-11 vote. It previously passed the House and now heads to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature. Bernard said he believes the timing of UO’s Lobby Day was crucial to getting in front of legislators before they make final budget decisions at the end of the session. “The Red for Ed and UO at the Capitol were coordinated and I think our hope is that the investment for K-12 and investment higher ed will be coordinated (as well),” Bernard said. Follow Jordyn Brown on Twitter @thejordynbrown or email at jbrown@registerguard.com   https://www.registerguard.com/news/20190514/uo-students-faculty-lobby-for-higher-education-funding-at-state-capitol

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  • More than 100 advocates lobby state legislators for increased funding

    On Wednesday, May 8, more than 110 students, alumni, faculty members and staff from the University of Oregon traveled to the state Capitol in Salem to lobby legislators for increased funding for the UO and higher education. Advocates told lawmakers and their staffs that public universities need the Public University Support Fund to grow by at least $120 million to keep tuition increases at or below 5 percent next year. The UO receives approximately 22 percent of the state fund based on a formula established by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The fund is currently budgeted at $737 million for the 2017-19 biennium. That level of funding reflects increases since 2015, but it is still below prerecession funding levels. Oregon is now ranked 37th in the nation for state funding per student, according to data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. “It was so exciting to see so many students turn out to engage in political advocacy,” said Maria A. Gallegos-Chacón, the UO student body president. “I hope that legislators also took note of the sacrifices students took to be talking to them today by missing class, work and using their time to let legislators how critical it is we be taken into account. “Overall, I am disappointed with the lack of public support for higher education investment on behalf of legislators. I hope legislators will take funding seriously when it comes to cradle-to-career education and not just say it, but show with their stances and votes that they are here for Oregonian students.” Advocates arrived at the Capitol in the morning, received an orientation and welcome from President Michael Schill and Gov. Kate Brown, and met with legislators throughout the day. The UO a capella group Mind the Gap performed at the opening ceremonies of the House of Representatives floor session, and UO academic and service programs hosted booths set up in the Capitol galleria. The booths included the university’s prison education program; Oregon Research Schools Network; Sustainable City Year Program; Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, whose staff brought live dungeness crabs and jellyfish; and the UO’s earthquake early warning system, called ShakeAlert. The UO Alumni Association also hosted a galleria table and encouraged policy staff and visitors in the building to answer UO-related trivia questions. “Our goal at the UO is to reduce student debt, improve graduation rates, provide critical wraparound services and ultimately create a better-equipped workforce for the future of Oregon’s economy,” said Libby Batlan, associate vice president of state and community affairs. “Cutting through the noise in Salem can be tough, but when lawmakers hear directly from students, alumni, faculty and staff about why investment in higher education is important, that’s when real change is made.” The Legislature is less than two months away from the conclusion of the 2019 session and setting the state’s budget for the next two years. Lawmakers will wait until after the Oregon economic forecast May 15 before making any final decisions in order to better understand how much revenue will flow into state coffers from taxpayers and businesses.

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  • Congressman Blumenauer Introduces Bill to Study Community-Wide Influences of Autonomous Vehicles

    First published on blumenauer.house.gov on May 8thl. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, introduced the Preparing Localities for an Autonomous and Connected Environment (PLACE) Act. This legislation would create a federally funded highly automated vehicle clearinghouse to examine the secondary influences of autonomous vehicles.   “With innovations in transit, rideshare, bikeshare, and scooters, the transportation sector is changing faster than ever before. Autonomous vehicles are coming faster than most of us realize and it is incumbent upon us to start planning now,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “Done right, Autonomous vehicles can increase mobility, improve social equity, and solve some of the country’s most vexing problems. Done wrong, we may repeat the mistakes of the past. The PLACE Act will allow us to have the research at our disposal to create more livable communities for all.”   The PLACE Act creates a federally funded clearinghouse that is housed at a higher education institution, like the Urbanism Institute at the University of Oregon. These facilities would be required to collect, conduct, and fund research to help understand how autonomous vehicles can influence land use, real estate, transportation, municipal budgets, urban design, the environment, and social equity. The proposed clearinghouse is funded at $2 million annually and would be chosen by the Secretary of Transportation within 180 days of enactment.    "Congressman Blumenauer is widely recognized as a pioneer in understanding the role of place in making communities resilient and livable. His bill would establish an essential resource for communities to manage impacts from autonomous vehicles," said Michael H. Schill, University of Oregon president and professor of law. "The clearinghouse would speed the dissemination of research by programs like the Urbanism Next Center, an initiative of UO's Sustainable Cities Institute."   “The implications of autonomous vehicles touch virtually every aspect of community planning,” said American Planning Association President Kurt Christiansen, FAICP.  “Communities are working now to identify the right policies to ensure that new mobility technologies enhance and expand quality of life and livability. The access to critical information and research provided by the PLACE Act is essential to helping communities get our AV future right.”   Current legislative frameworks being debated in Congress would delineate state, local, and federal roles in regulating autonomous vehicles while also setting cybersecurity, safety, and data standards. However, little attention has been paid to the secondary influences of autonomous vehicles once they are deployed onto the roads. The proposed clearinghouse is funded at $2 million annually and would be chosen by the Secretary of Transportation within 180 days of enactment. https://blumenauer.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/congressman-blumenauer-introduces-bill-study-community-wide-influences

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  • Oregon Legislature Update: Week 15

    The Oregon Legislature is in week 15 of the legislative session. With just more than two months to complete their work, lawmakers are making progress on passing education budgets. The Joint Committee on Student Success passed HB 3427 on Monday, April 29 out of committee. This is the revenue package that will raise approximately $2 billion each biennia moving forward for early childhood and K-12 school districts and students. The proposed package is funded by a corporate activities tax. The measure now moves to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. Despite our best efforts, lawmakers were unwilling to include funding for students at public universities or community colleges in this package. As a result, we’re working hard to continue to advocate to increase the funding in the Public University Support Fund (PUSF) and for the Oregon Opportunity Grant—the state’s only need-based financial aid program. Legislators will wait until after the revenue forecast on May 15 to make final budget decisions so they can see whether they will have more, less, or about the same amount of taxpayer revenue they anticipated to spend this biennium. Our goal is simple: Increase funding in the PUSF by at least $120 million this session so students take on less debt, graduate on time, and enter the workforce prepared with the skills for which Oregon employers are hiring. University of Oregon trustees, staff, faculty, students, and alumni have been advocating in Salem all session long. Our next big advocacy day point is Wednesday, May 8. That’s UO Day at the Capitol, and we need as many advocates to come to Salem to tell lawmakers to increase funding for higher education and for students. You can sign up for UO Day at the Capitol here: Deadline to sign up is Wednesday, May 1. More on budget: Lawmakers intend to pass a bill that would reduce the overall “kicker” by $108 million. This would make additional General Funds available to craft the 2019-21 state budget. Governor Brown presented a proposed tobacco tax that would raise taxes on cigarettes by $2 per package and introduce the first tax in the nation on vaping and e-cigarettes. The package would raise $346 million in total that, along with a tax on companies whose employees qualify for Medicaid, would be used to pay the state’s share of Medicaid.

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  • DeFazio talks transportation with UO students and researchers

    First published in Around the O, the students in professor Marc Schlossberg’s Bicycle Transportation course had a special treat recently as their classroom was transformed for the day into the setting for a high-level policy discussion that included one of the most influential lawmakers in the land when it comes to transportation issues. The class included University of Oregon faculty members and others who looked at transportation through the lens of their own research — ranging from environmental law to psychology to computer science and civil engineering. But the students also got to ask questions of and hear from a distinguished guest who plays a major role in determining which transportation trends are likely to be implemented: U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio.  The Springfield Democrat is the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman as well as a UO alumnus. He was joined by the UO’s Heather Brinton, director or the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center; computer science professor Stephen Fickas; psychology professor Elliot Berkman; planning, public policy and management professor Rebecca Lewis; and Oregon State University civil engineering professor David Hurwitz. The class, which coincidentally was held on Earth Day, was a chance to highlight some of the innovative, multidisciplinary approaches the university is applying to what is one of the most critical issues facing society in the coming decades And the students got a broad, behind-the-scenes look into how it all happens. The hour-plus conversation ranged from the unexpectedly fast adoption of electric scooters to how to overcome the psychological and structural barriers preventing more people from walking or bicycling to nearby destinations. It even touched on how other futuristic modes of transportation, such as driverless cars, might accelerate cities’ use of streets for more space-efficient and low-carbon modes of transportation. “We’re rethinking transportation in the 21st century,” Schlossberg, a professor in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management, told participants, noting how all the scholars in the room should be considered transportation experts in order to advance research and its applications. After each faculty member shared how their knowledge contributes to solving transportation issues, DeFazio shared an anecdote about a recent trip to a self-driving car technology company. He saw a bunch of kids playing games around a parked car, which he learned was how the car was “learning” how to predict kids’ actions by having its sensors observe them playing. But he also gave insight into the dialogue in the halls of Congress about such technology when it comes to navigating autonomous vehicles’ liability issues. “How is this all going to work?” he asked. “It’s going to be difficult.” Much of the work at the UO actually addresses the question DeFazio asked, only it approaches it from a different perspective: Rather than asking how cars can better see people simply as objects to avoid, many researchers at the UO are asking how cities can actually be redesigned to prioritize people on foot, bike or scooter in the first place. Schlossberg said the UO is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of such issues because no other university can lay claim to the same range of faculty members applying their research to transportation, which includes planning, public administration, architecture, computer science, law, landscape architecture, business, journalism and other disciplines.  Schlossberg also noted how it was DeFazio’s work more than a decade ago that set in motion this diversity of faculty members all focusing on transportation issues — including the actual course DeFazio was now taking part in — starting with the creation of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium in 2005. That sparked a chain reaction leading to the Sustainable Cities Institutein 2009, the UO Urbanism Next Center in 2017 and the Applied Transportation Studies focus area earlier this year. “We’re at a time when decisions about how we design transportation systems are either going to be part of the problem or part of the solution, and I really believe Oregon has a particular expertise and a real commitment to help communities meet their needs in this critical area,” said Brinton, of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center. Students asked about issues relating to privacy concerns and climate change, and educating the public in order to overcome them.  “We’re sitting in one of the world’s premier colleges of education, and if anybody can do that, we can,” said Berkman, the psychologist. “And Oregon is a great state for this laboratory model.” “One thing that’s exciting to me is a year ago people weren’t even talking about scooters as form of transportation,” added Hurwitz from OSU. “Here’s a mode of transportation that didn’t exist a year ago and now they represent tens of millions of trips in the U.S., revealing a massive preference for a new way to travel for trips under two miles. Our challenge is to help cities understand how to capitalize on the opportunities and challenges scooters present in terms of street design, policy, equity and safety.” DeFazio, who helped create the national Safe Routes to School program, said he was encouraged that the work at the UO also places a focus on how these new forms of transportation can potentially help more kids get to school and elsewhere in their community independently and safely. In all, Schlossberg said the open discussion among the scholars and the congressman was a rousing success. It gave students the chance to contribute to a wide-ranging discussion among experts spanning multiple disciplines they ordinarily wouldn’t have access to in a classroom setting. In addition, it gave Schlossberg the chance to show DeFazio the long-range effect of legislation he backed more than a decade ago. The gathering also illustrated how well the UO is positioned to help communities across the United States be better able to meet the transportation challenges of the 21st century. “I thought it was a tremendous experience for the students to be able to listen to candid talks and sometimes differing opinions from these scholars and Congressman DeFazio,” he said. “These are important issues that students are tackling as part of applied projects in this class, ones that will definitely be part of their professional work once they leave campus. This was a beneficial and fun way to involve them now.” —By Jim Murez, University Communications   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/rep-defazio-talks-transportation-uo-students-and-researchers/?utm_source=UOnews

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  • UO team hopes for a green light to develop a new bike signal app

    First published in Around the, every cyclist who rides around the city knows the feeling: Breezing along, wind in your hair, making good time, and then — a red light. Foot down, momentum gone, and a seemingly interminable wait for the green. Now two UO professors are working on ways to help ease the way for cyclists and make them a more seamless part of a city’s transportation system. Stephen Fickas, a professor of computer and information science, and Marc Schlossberg, a professor of city and regional planning, collaborated on an experimental smartphone app that allows cyclists to communicate with and trigger a traffic signal at a busy bike corridor near campus. “We wanted to find a way to make it more convenient and easier for people on bikes to get through a transportation system built for and optimized for motor vehicle traffic,” Schlossberg said. Schlossberg is co-director of the Sustainable Cities Institute, and much of his research focuses on ways to redesign cities so more people can walk, bike and take transit. He also teaches a class on bicycle transportation and leads a study abroad program that focuses on the topic. The two obtained a $67,000 grant for the project, dubbed Bike Connect, from the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, a university transportation consortium whose members include the UO, Portland State University, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Utah, University of Arizona and University of Texas at Arlington. The pilot app was tested by 10 users over nine months. Working with the city of Eugene, they installed a special device that communicated with the app at the traffic signal at 18th Avenue and Alder Street. The gizmo was built for about $200 with off-the-shelf hardware and software. The actual design and programming of the device originated in an “internet of things” class that Fickas offers regularly and for which he received a Williams Fellowship to continue moving the class toward smart-city applications. As a cyclist traveling on Alder approached the signal, an indicator on the app would turn from gray to yellow, indicating the app had notified the signal that a cyclist was approaching and at what speed. As the cyclist got closer, the indicator on the phone would turn green — or the phone would vibrate — after the traffic signal turned green. Schlossberg, who lives on the Alder Street corridor, was one of the study participants and helped calibrate the app. “It was awesome,” he said. Fickas said the app worked about 80 percent of the time during the test period, though Schlossberg cautioned that number is based on a small sample size. When the app didn’t trigger the signal, it was usually because a car or another cyclist were already at the intersection and waiting for the green, Fickas said. Under existing traffic systems, loop detectors are embedded in the pavement at intersections and will trigger a signal once a vehicle drives over them. But even when present within a bike lane, most cyclists don’t know they exist and don’t know whether they’ve triggered the signal. Schlossberg said. So they get off the bike and push the pedestrian crossing button, or they may decide to run a red light, Fickas said. The advent of autonomous cars means that cars will be communicating with each other and with traffic signals, referred to as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. Schlossberg and Fickas said they want to raise the profile and legitimacy of bicycles in that emerging transportation system and not just be something for cars to avoid. The next step is to seek grant funding to advance the concept, Schlossberg said. One idea would be to develop a small, inexpensive, unobtrusive device that could be mounted to or built into a bicycle handlebar and communicate with traffic signals and tell a cyclist whether to slow down, maintain speed or speed up to hit a green light. The Sustainable Cities Institute will submit a grant proposal to the National Institute for Traffic and Communities seeking $120,000 to create a customizable “Green Wave” for cyclists in Eugene. The idea is to give cyclists information about the timing of traffic signals, initially via a smartphone app — with visual, vibration and sound options — that would let them adjust their speed to hit green lights, Schlossberg said. For a few signals, cyclists would be able to communicate with traffic signals and trigger a green light with an app in advance. The app and the signaling box remain in alpha testing and both are being reconfigured regularly by the research team, Fickas said. If the second grant is approved, the technology would be refined and the app would be made available to the general public. Schlossberg said his group is also working on a “transformational” proposal, seeking to establish a new National Sustainable Cities Transportation Laboratory. He said he’s talked with several members of Congress about establishing an applied, university-based research center that is truly multidisciplinary in nature. Such a lab would be focused on creating and providing research and tools to help cities make better decisions about building infrastructure that creates safer and more family-friendly systems of travel by bike, foot, scooter and other low-carbon, space-efficient transportation. Such a lab would test and deploy projects like the Bike Connect app, but it would also look at a variety of applied research, like new ways of designing streets for different modes of transportation, such as autonomous vehicles, ride hailing and scooters. That would be a $25 million ask. In addition, Schlossberg said he’d like to see Congress create a $1 billion fund to help cities implement the ideas developed by the lab. “The goal of this project is to make it more convenient and comfortable for more people to use these small-footprint, low-carbon, door-to-door transportation options more of the time,” he said. —By Tim Christie, University Communications   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/uo-team-hopes-green-light-develop-new-bike-signal-app/?utm_source=UOnews  

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  • Knight Campus launches affiliation program to support faculty

    First published in Around the O on April 16th. Faculty members from different academic disciplines now have the opportunity to become involved with the Knight Campus through the new Faculty Affiliation Program. The Knight Campus already has established a host of programming open to the UO community, and the general UO community will be able to take advantage of a world-class facility once opened in late Spring 2020. The goal of the Faculty Affiliation Program is to create deeper faculty engagement and build on the impact of Knight Campus programs and opportunities for collaboration. The program will provide resources and organized events to support faculty members across campus and facilitate multidisciplinary teams from faculty members with overlapping or complimentary skills and interests.  The Knight Campus Affiliation Program offers two distinct memberships for UO faculty members whose primary appointment is outside the Knight Campus. Knight Campus associates are tenure-related faculty members and faculty members in the research professor classification with primary appointments outside the Knight Campus who are integrally involved with Knight Campus activities and programs. Associate members will have access to many of the research and innovation opportunities afforded to those with tenure in the Knight Campus. Knight Campus affiliates are UO faculty members of all ranks with a primary appointment outside of the Knight Campus who would like to be kept abreast of activities and programs offered by the Knight Campus through direct communication and who wish to be included as affiliated members on the Knight Campus website. Membership proposals will be reviewed quarterly for affiliates and semi-annually for associates. Appointments are for three years and are renewable. Faculty members and scholars across academic disciplines are encouraged to apply. Interested faculty members should apply online by Friday, May 31. Applicants will receive notification by the beginning of July on the status of application review.    https://around.uoregon.edu/content/knight-campus-launches-affiliation-program-support-faculty

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  • Calling all Ducks: Advocates needed for UO lobby day in Salem

    First published in Around the O, UO students, alumni, faculty and staff will visit the state Capitol on May 8 to advocate for higher education funding, and Duck supporters are encouraged to sign up and take part in the event. Advocates will join campus leaders, including UO President Michael H. Schill and student body President Maria Alejandra Gallegos-Chacôn, to meet with lawmakers and make the case for the funding necessary to keep tuition increases as low as possible. Other priorities include investing in new services and programs that reduce debt, improving graduation rates, and expanding career connections. A new video explains the role of advocates at UO Day at the Capitol. “Oregonians believe that having a college degree is important to succeed later on in life, but rising student debt threatens the path to prosperity that higher education has always represented,” said Libby Batlan, associate vice president for state and community affairs. “Increasing state funding for public universities and financial aid are, without question, the biggest factors to keep tuition increases low and ensuring that all students can graduate with the skills they need to get a job.”  As the university faces significant financial challenges and is in the process of cutting $11.6 million from its operating budget, additional state investment of at least $120 million would allow tuition increases to stay below 5 percent for the next two years. Investment of an additional $186 million above current levels would create new and enhanced opportunities for financial aid for underserved student populations, academic and career advising, diversity initiatives and other wraparound services that lead to a positive college experience. The proposed budget from the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means targets the Public University Support Fund at $777.4 million, which is an increase of $40.5 million over the 2017-19 biennium. The fund is split across all seven public universities. At that funding level, the UO would be forced to consider tuition increases in the double digits on top of cuts that will affect students and employees. “The Legislature is considering historic new investments in public education this session as well as new corporate tax increases to pay for it,” Schill said. “My job, and the job of UO advocates, is to ensure that lawmakers know that without an investment in higher education, they are not truly making progress for students and for Oregon’s economy.” In addition to advocate visits with legislators, the lobby day will include orientation and training opportunities, photos with the Duck, viewing House and Senate chamber sessions and performances by UO musical groups. Transportation from Eugene can be requested when signing up. An orientation video provides additional information about the role of participants. “We know from experience that it’s students and faculty who truly make the difference,” said Ivan Chen, external vice president for the Associated Students of the UO. “We need as many people as possible to come to Salem on May 8th to advocate for our future.” All are welcome and encouraged to participate. Registration is required to attend, which can be completed online in addition to viewing a training video. UO Day at the Capitol is coordinated by UO Government and Community Relations in conjunction with the Associated Students of the University of Oregon, UO Alumni Association and the UO Student Alumni Association.   Link: https://around.uoregon.edu/content/calling-all-ducks-advocates-needed-uo-lobby-day-salem/?utm_source=UOnews&fbclid=IwAR27Eq7fIhHArbyq4H39qwvPz4zEubFgOCMrTBoL7Ohyqginu2RJF7ZCNCE   

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