Guest Editorial: ASWOU endorses ballot measures

Nathan Soltz | ASWOU Senate President

Two weeks ago, ASWOU became the first student government in Oregon to endorse on ballot measures. We recommend the following: YES on Measure 102 and NO on Measures 103, 104, 105, and 106.

Before the ASWOU Senate considered endorsing, I reached out to the Oregon State Legislature Legislative Counsel. Legislative Counsel is the team of attorneys who draft legislation and answer legal questions for legislators and their staff. As I work for Senator Frederick, I asked them during the September legislative days if a public university’s recognized student government was legally prohibited from taking positions on ballot measures and I was told, essentially, that there shouldn’t be a problem. After that, we received a legal opinion from the Attorney General also stating that student governments have the legal ability to endorse ballot measures (Department of Justice opinion no. 8289). The Attorney General’s opinion referenced an opinion from the Attorney General in 1985 which stated that student governments could not take positions on ballot measures; however, it continued that since then, Oregon law has changed and the law in question no longer exists. Therefore, student governments are no longer prohibited from taking these positions.

With this guidance, on Monday, October 15th, the Senate unanimously passed the resolutions. On Wednesday, I received an email from WOU’s general counsel telling me that it was illegal for ASWOU to take positions on ballot measures. I responded with the Attorney General’s opinion and he said, in effect, that he doesn’t care what the Attorney General says. I then met with the ASWOU President, Vice President, and Senate President Pro Tempore and we all signed a letter I wrote stating that we are proceeding with the endorsements, as is our legal right and ethical duty. On Friday, we met with the general counsel and during that meeting, he essentially conceded that yes, the law in question has been changed, but he is still upholding an old legal opinion even though the Attorney General’s updated legal opinion is directly contrary. So, after about an hour, we presented him with our letter.

The ASWOU government is steadfast in its defense of student rights. The WOU Administration has also taken the stance that our student clubs and organizations cannot take action on the ballot measures either. However, in the opinion of the State of Oregon, we do have that right. If your club or organization would like to take action, please do and reach out with questions. ASWOU is leading this effort and other universities are looking to follow suit.

More information on the election – including our recommendations on measures and neutral information – is available at the ASWOU table upstairs in the WUC and in the ASWOU office downstairs in the WUC. The ASWOU government is your student government. If you want further information, including any of the documents I’ve referenced, would like to get involved in Senate, or want to learn more about ASWOU, please don’t hesitate to contact me. And don’t forget to VOTE BY NOVEMBER 6th!

Contact the author at

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest editorials are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Western Howl.