Editorial Note: This article first appeared in the Daily Emerald on Monday, November 24.
Helena Schlegel was sitting in the Buzz Café on Nov. 14 when she got a call from an unknown number. On the other end was Chuck Lillis, chair of the University of Oregon Board of Trustees, informing her that she was nominated to fill the student seat on the board.
Three days later, it was officially announced that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s office nominated the third year Spanish and economics major to the UO Board of Trustees.
Schlegel expressed interest in the position last spring through an ASUO search. After interviews with students from different aspects of campus, the ASUO selected three candidates to send to the governor’s office.
Schlegel wants to address the stigma that students don’t care about their governing board.
“I want to make sure that the board and the community realize that students are listening to all these policies that affect their lives,” Schlegel said. “And that they care.”
Her nomination to the Board of Trustees is the latest of Schlegel’s heavy involvement at the university. Schlegel is a Wayne Morse scholar, a dispatcher for UO Safe Ride and a member of the UO Organization Against Sexual Assault. She has served as a senator in both the ASUO and the University Senate, through which she helped to draft the board of trustee governing documents.
While serving on the Committee of UO Board of Trustee Delegation of Authority Policy, Schlegel saw how much power the board has and wanted students to be incorporated into that power.
“My focus will be keeping the board accountable to the mission of the university, which really is that we are a public university that should be prioritizing students,” Schlegel said. “I want to be a part of the board that does that, that prioritizes student issues.”
Schlegel’s next step as a nominee includes standing in front of the Senate Rules Committee to deliver her case. The committee then reports to the Oregon Senate which will then vote on Schlegel as a nominee, all during finals week. If confirmed through the formal process, Schlegel could be a voting member of the board by its meeting on Dec. 11.
“Once confirmed, Helena will have full status as a voting member of the board,” Board of Trustees Secretary Angela Wilhelms said. “(She) will serve on the Academic and Student Affairs Committee representing the student body in matters before the board.”
Schlegel would replace ASUO President Beatriz Gutierrez. Since the last student board member Sam Dotters-Katz graduated this last spring, Gutierrez has been acting as an interim board member.
If confirmed, Schlegel would be one of 15 board members to vote on changes to the student conduct code, approving tuition and voting on UO’s next president.
“The governor values student perspective in governance and believes in creating intergenerational opportunities for leadership,” Melissa Navas, press secretary to the governor, said. “He wants to ensure the trustees he appoints reflect diverse characteristics that adequately represent the state, including that they demonstrate the ability to work with an array of stakeholders, understand the broad role of public higher education in Oregon and provide institutional accountability to our citizens. Helena stood out as the student representative who most embodied those traits.”
Schlegel encourages students to send her feedback at email@example.com.