UO

UO Provost asks for feedback on tuition increase

University of Oregon Provost Jayanth Banavar sent out an email to the entire UO community asking for feedback on the proposed tuition increase for the 2018-19 academic year.

The proposed increase is $6 dollars per credit, or $240 per year, for in-state students and $18 per credit, or $810 per year, for out-of-state students.

In addition, the proposal includes a $7 increase in the student health center service fee. The increase will help fund the health and counseling services at the health center. Read about wait times and the proposed increase here.

The tuition increase was discussed and set by the Tuition and Fee Advisory Board (TFAB) in a series of public meetings. Read about those meetings and the proposed increase here.

Banavar directed UO community members to read the full TFAB tuition proposal and submit comments to this online comment form. The form will be closed at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15.

Banavar also recommended students to attend the student tuition forum on Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. in the Gerlinger Lounge.

President Schill will make his final recommendation to the Board of Trustees at the Board’s meeting on March 2. According to Banavar, Schill’s recommendation will be available to public review before he presents it to the Board.

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ASUO Senate tables Safe Rides’ request for $13,400 toward new vehicle wraps

If you’ve ever called Safe Ride on a wild night out and were unable to clearly see or identify your ride (for some reason or another), you’re in luck.

Safe Rides, the department managing Safe Ride and the Designated Driver Shuttle, requested $13,400 from the ASUO Student Senate for vehicle wraps to give Safe Rides’ vehicles an easily identifiable look.

The request was made on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at the ASUO Student Senate meeting. The money would be allocated to wrap the 11 existing vehicles within Safe Ride and the Designated Driver Shuttle with 35” by 10” decals. These vehicles consist of one Ford Transit, four Ford E-350 van/ minibusses and six Dodge Caravans.

Qualifying organizations can request additional funds beyond what they are allocated during the annual ASUO Budget Process, according to the ASUO website.

Ashley McCrea, the Safe Rides program manager at the UO Police Department, said at the ASUO meeting that the request was made because people often question if a vehicle is really a Safe Ride or DDS vehicle.

She also said that part of the desire for vehicle wraps comes from wanting the Safe Rides programs to have an easily identifiable look, as the look of current Safe Ride and DDS vehicles is “not very clearly University of Oregon.”

“It’s identifying something that is safe, professional and identifiable to the University, because currently that is not represented in our program vehicles,” McCrea said.

ASUO Senator Alex Pear, of Senate Seat 4, supported the request.

“I think it is a reasonable request,” Pear said. “Student safety is something we strive for.”

Mariah Victor is one of the co-directors of the DDS program, and as a user of the service herself, she said that a vehicle wrap would make it a lot easier for riders that have only used Safe Ride or DDS a few times.

During the Senate meeting, senators expressed that they wanted to look into options other than the expensive vehicle decals before making a definitive decision, such as taxi-toppers, LED strips or personnel uniforms for Safe Ride and DDS employees.

ASUO Senator Arian Mobasser, of Senate Seat 23 and the sciences and law representative for graduate students, said that ASUO may be “throwing money at something that wouldn’t resolve the issue.”

McCrea later researched the option of taxi toppers for Safe Ride and DDS vehicles, and she said that it may not be a viable option due to a lack of visibility on larger vehicles and the possibility of Safe Ride and DDS patrons confusing Safe Ride and DDS vehicles with taxis or delivery drivers. She later added that she would advocate for taxi toppers as a “secondary marketing strategy.”

The ASUO’s initial vote to approve or deny the request tied with 10 senators on each side. ASUO Internal Vice President, Tess Mor, broke the tie with a “no” vote, tabling the request and saying that Safe Ride should return to another Senate meeting with a new proposal after further research. By tabling the request, ASUO officially postponed a vote on Safe Rides’ proposal.

Safe Ride and DDS provide rides for active students, faculty and staff of the University within an approximate area of four miles. The north boundary is Randy Pape Beltline, the east is Pioneer Parkway, the south is 46th Avenue and the west is City View Street.

Safe Ride takes students in groups of three or less, and it begins shuttling students in the evening through reservation only. Operating times vary by term and are listed on Safe Ride’s website.

The DDS is another free, first come, first serve UO shuttle service, but it operates only from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. every night and will shuttle up to 10 UO students home and not to any other locations, according to the UO website, and it does not allow scheduled rides.

“There are many programs at the University that aim to prevent such behavior, but DDS is a program that provides solutions when they occur: namely, providing designated rides for intoxicated students,” DDS states on its website.

“We are a ‘no-questions-asked’ program. We will not ask you how old you are, nor do we presume guilt on all passengers. As a rider, you are not obligated to tell anything about where you have been that night, who you were with, or what you have done,” also according to its website.

Both Safe Ride and DDS are student-run programs that operate out of the EMU, and both programs employ UO students to keep them running.

Students can call Safe Ride and DDS at (541) 346-RIDE (7433).

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Remembering Tom — students and colleagues mourn journalism professor Tom Wheeler

During his classes, journalism professor Tom Wheeler would often joke about lacking a traditional newspaper background before he arrived as an instructor at the University of Oregon’s journalism school.

But to his students and colleagues, Wheeler was a master storyteller. He would regale his students with stories about interviewing music greats including BB King, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. He loved reading features and students’ work out loud in class as if to savor every word.

The UO community is mourning the loss of Professor Wheeler, who died Saturday night while visiting family and friends in the Bay Area.

Wheeler, who was a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication for about 25 years, was beloved among the community for his dedication to his students, his knowledge and passion for the craft and its future practitioners.

University of Oregon professor Tom Wheeler died on Saturday. (Courtesy of the University of Oregon)

The Emerald reached out to community members via email and social media and received many responses about Wheeler’s impact. Many students echoed that he went above and beyond for them.

Wheeler taught a variety of classes in the SOJC about feature writing, editing, and grammar, but he started his career in journalism as a music journalist in magazines. He freelanced for Rolling Stone and served as editor-in-chief of Guitar Player Magazine before founding Bass Player Magazine in 1988. He was an expert on guitars and wrote many books about their history and significance. When he came to Eugene to teach at the SOJC, he also started playing guitar in bands around town.

Jim Roberts, who worked closely with Wheeler when starting Bass Player, said that Wheeler provided valuable support to him as a journalist. Roberts had no previous editorial experience — only writing and interviewing — but Wheeler hired him as the founding editor at Bass Player.

“I learned so much from Tom it’s hard to know where to start — not only did he teach me how to write and edit better, how to plan issues, how to distribute work among staff and freelancers, and so on, he showed me how to be the kind of person who is a successful editor. He was a true mentor,” Roberts wrote in an email. He added via phone that Wheeler instilled in him the idea that to be successful as a journalist, he had to understand and work well with people.

Wheeler’s  students — both current UO students and alumni — agree.

Allison Del Fuim, an SOJC senior who founded the student Music Industry Collective, remembers cold-calling Wheeler to talk to him about music journalism during her freshman year at UO. She said she wasn’t sure she would ever get a response from him, but he responded right away.

They got coffee together, and Wheeler became a mentor of hers for the next three years. He helped her start MIC and was always around to help with essays and preparing for interviews, despite his busy schedule. Del Fuim says that one of the best takeaways she has from his mentorship was to always be prepared, noting that Wheeler did his research — no matter what story he was working on.

The SOJC community held an informal gathering to remember Wheeler on Sunday evening. Students, alumni and faculty gathered in Allen Hall’s atrium to share memories and reflect on the situation. SOJC Dean Juan-Carlos Molleda said that Wheeler was one of the first faculty members to introduce himself when Molleda arrived in 2016.

“He was always present,” Molleda said of Wheeler. Advertising instructor Deb Morrison added that Wheeler always appeared happy.

“His kindness was real,” she said.

Students and faculty also commented on his vibrant style and homey office. His over six foot frame was easily recognizable on campus because of his detailed scarves and leather shoulder bag. He was frequently found sporting a black cap — one that often provoked comparisons to fellow SOJC professor Peter Laufer.

Chris Jisi, the current editor in chief of Bass Player, only met Wheeler in person once, but said that despite this Wheeler helped kick-start his career like he did for many UO students.

He wrote in an email that Wheeler was a source of support and mentorship when the two worked together at Guitar Player and Bass Player Magazine. Jisi started writing about bass for Guitar Player, and when Wheeler was helping to start Bass Player, he asked Jisi to apply for a job there.

“But it all starts with Tom and I’ll forever be grateful for him giving me my start in music journalism,” Jisi said.

 

Read SOJC community members’ reflections on social media below:

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The Emerald wants to celebrate outstanding women at UO. Find out how you can nominate someone here.

Do you know a woman making a positive impact in the University of Oregon community? Chances are, you probably do — and chances are, she probably doesn’t get enough recognition. The Emerald is looking for local women to honor as part of Women’s History Month in March. Our newsroom will choose one woman from the pool of nominees and feature her story on the cover of our weekly newspaper. We want to hear from the community about the amazing women who are out there every day, making a difference at UO with their integrity, courage, innovation, creativity, spirit, smarts, leadership, hard work and ambition. Help us honor the women of UO!

Fill out a nomination form here. 

Criteria:

She identifies as a woman.

She should be be an undergraduate or graduate student, staff member, faculty or UO-affiliated community member (e.g. SafeRide driver, janitor, alumnus).

She should be a leader in her community who is actively making positive contributions to the UO and Oregon at large.

Her actions should demonstrate integrity, courage, or innovation.

She should be innovative or pushing barriers and stereotypes surrounding gender and/or race.

A leader in her field of work, volunteer work or area study; making waves with a positive, tangible impact.

She must be willing to participate in her nomination.

The person who is doing the nomination must obtain permission to nominate the woman and include contact info for both parties.

Examples of nominees (but not limited to):

A scientist or grad student doing exemplary research.

A student on campus working tirelessly for social justice.

A woman taking part in community action or doing hands-on community work, such as organizing education opportunities for local children or organizing food drives for local food banks.

Process:

Anyone making a nomination should fill out our form here. The Emerald’s management team and desk editors will review the nominations and hold a vote on February 18th to pick which woman’s story we will feature. A reporter will interview the honoree the following week and set up a time to photograph her before March 3.

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Here are some events you can attend for Black History Month this February

Black History Month occurs every February and is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the history, accomplishments and cultures of black Americans. In observance, the University of Oregon hosts several events throughout the month that offer opportunities for attendees to dive into lessons and conversations with experts, academics, and artists about current social justice issues and race in America. 

A talk and reception with Sam Bailey, the director and co-creator of HBO’s Emmy-nominated web series, “Brown Girls,” will take place in the EMU 145 Crater Lake South room at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8. The event is sponsored by the Cinema Studies Department.

Also on Thursday, the Labor Education & Research Center is sponsoring Pioneering a Living Legacy: Shaping Our Vision for Diversity and Inclusion in the Labor Movement. The event will be held at UO’s Portland White Stag Building 142/144 at 70 NW Couch Street at 6 p.m. It will include a viewing of the short film, “Sista in the Brotherhood,” followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Roberta Hunte.

On Friday, Feb. 9, the 8th Annual Black History Month Banquet, sponsored by Blacks in Government, will take place at the Valley River Inn in Eugene at 5:30 p.m. If you want to attend you must reserve a table or seat.

The UO Law School is sponsoring the Derrick Bell Lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 5:30 p.m. They’re hosting Professor of Law, African American Studies and Ethnic Studies Jonathan A. Powell for the lecture in the Law School room 175. Professor Powell will hold a public reception from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. that day in the UO Law Commons.

The African Studies Lecture Series is sponsoring a lecture by Andre Djiffack called “Teaching and Researching on Mongo Beti.” The lecture will be in the Knight Library Browsing Room at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

Ducks After Dark will be showing “Marshall” on Thursday, Feb. 15 in the EMU Redwood Auditorium. Doors open at 8:15 p.m. and the movie starts at 9 p.m. The movie, rated PG-13,  is about Thurgood Marshall, who was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

The 2018 Freedom Fund Dinner, sponsored by the Eugene/Springfield NAACP, will be at the Valley River Inn in Eugene at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 16. Tickets to attend are $80 per seat or $100 for a seat and an NAACP membership. The dinner is the NAACP’s main fundraiser, and this year’s event will be “a reflection of the National NAACP’s initiatives towards climate change, a 21st-century social justice and civil rights issues,” according to the event’s website.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, the Black Student Union is hosting an Excellence Gala in the Ford Alumni Center at 6 p.m.

The Labor & Education Research Center is sponsoring Bill Fletcher’s lecture, “Race & Labor: Building a More Just Economy,” on Tuesday Feb. 20 in Straub 145 at 4 p.m. Fletcher was the Education Director for the national AFL-CIO, the president of TransAfrica Forum and a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, according to the event brochure.

The Department of Art will sponsor Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa’s “Scenes from ‘One Wall a Web’” lecture on Thursday, Feb. 22 in Lawrence 177 at 6 p.m. Wolukau-Wanambwa is a photographer, writer and teacher based in New York City. His lecture will be about the commonalities between pictures and words.

“Talking Black in America,” is a panel discussion, sponsored by the UO Linguistics Department, that will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Straub 156.

Black History Month events will conclude on Friday, Feb. 23, with the “Don’t Touch My Hair,” opening reception exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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Weeks-long wait times for Counseling Center therapy causes students to deal with stress themselves; UO seeks fee increase to help

Last year, the UO Counseling Center experienced a 31 percent increase in the number of individual therapy appointments. This has led to longer waiting times for some students — sometimes up to weeks.

University of Oregon sophomore Lauren Alejo is one student who has dealt with long wait times at the Counseling Center. Last year during winter term, she visited the Counseling Center to help deal with anxiety from being away from family and friends.

The UO Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management proposed a $7 per-student per-term increase to the Student Health fee for next school year. The proposal was presented and discussed at the Tuition and Fees Advisory Board meeting on Jan. 23 in the Johnson Hall boardroom.

This year the Student Health fee is $191 per student which makes it the second highest fee that UO students are required to pay in addition to tuition.

Alejo said that when she met with a therapist from the Counseling Center, she was not given a time frame for how long it would be before she could begin weekly individual meetings. She did not want to wait to begin individual therapy, so instead, she asked how she could deal with her anxiety by herself. Alejo deals with anxiety by spending time with her friends, meditating and exercising.

But Alejo said that despite the long wait times, she’s still glad she visited the Counseling Center for help.

“I feel like even if there is a waitlist that they could still provide me with resources that could help me,” said Alejo.

When a student first calls the Counseling Center for help, an employee will set up a 15-minute phone assessment that is usually scheduled within 1-3 days. After the assessment, students can set up an in-person assessment that occurs within a week or two. The wait time can be longer or shorter, depending on availability of therapists. At the beginning of the calendar year, wait times tend to be shorter because students have just arrived back on campus.  

“We are here to figure out what is most helpful for individuals,” said Joseph DeWitz, clinical director at the UO Counseling Center.

Finding solutions, increasing fees

The portion of the Student Health fee increase for the Counseling Center would be used to cover labor costs for the staff needed to provide the increased demand in services, according to Roger Thompson, vice president of Student Services and Enrollment Management, in a written proposal for TFAB.

Last year, the UO Counseling Center hired five new therapists: two replaced staff members no longer at the counseling center and three filled new positions, according to DeWitz.

The student health fee funds the UO Health Center and Counseling Center. In the Health Center, it primarily funds the facilities, payroll and operational expenses related to providing patient care. For the Counseling Center, the fee provides funding for therapy, crisis support and other support services.

“I would be ok with them increasing the fee,” Alejo said. “As long as they’re doing something to help the students.”

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LGBTQA3 Alliance’s annual drag show raises money for transgender youth summer camp

Saturday wasn’t University of Oregon student Jane Kissinger’s first time seeing a drag show, but she was excited to see student drag queens perform. For her, the LGBTQA3 Alliance at the UO — which hosted the show — gives her a chance to be herself.

“My hometown is very rural and very conservative, and I felt that as a lesbian, I didn’t have any space for community or for agency,” Kissinger said. “Being part of the QA3 gives me a place where I can be accepted and where I can express myself without any limitations.”

Show Host Karess Ann Slaughter laughs as she introduces the next performer. The LGBTQA3 Alliance holds its annual drag show at the EMU Ballroom in Eugene, Oregon on Febuary 3, 2018. (Devin Roux/Emerald)

The LGBTQA3 Alliance hosted its annual drag show on Saturday, and this year’s theme was “Dungeons and Drag Queens.” The revenue from the show will go to support scholarships and art supplies for youths attending the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art’s transgender summer camp.

Monique performs Shape of You. The LGBTQA3 Alliance holds its annual drag show at the EMU Ballroom in Eugene, Oregon on Febuary 3, 2018. (Devin Roux/Emerald)

Sherri Jones is the JSMA’s museum education program coordinator, and she says that she’s been working to reach out to the transgender youth community. She designed the week-long summer camp specifically for transgender and gender-questioning youths between first and eighth grade.

“It’s been a personal desire, and I have family and close friends that are in the queer community,” Jones said. “I think that it would be a really great way for the kids in our community to meet each other, maybe make new friends and just have a safe environment to do some art.”

Jones said that scholarships, art supplies and pay for art teachers are the big expenses that the camp faces.

“Art can be very healing and very community-building too,” Jones said.

Clarice San Carlos performs Dangerous Woman. The LGBTQA3 Alliance holds its annual drag show at the EMU Ballroom in Eugene, Oregon on February 3, 2018. (Devin Roux/Emerald)

Katharine Wishnia, a first-year biology major, has attended one other drag show in Portland, but this was her first show in Eugene.

“The performances were amazing, and I will absolutely go to another show,” Wishnia said.

Halfway through the show, performer Chartreuse proposed to her boyfriend, to whom she dedicated her first number — an original Star Trek-inspired song, “I Bring the Trek.”

Chartreuse performs I Bring the Trek. The LGBTQA3 Alliance holds its annual drag show at the EMU Ballroom in Eugene, Oregon on Febuary 3, 2018. (Devin Roux/Emerald)

Chartreuse is the 45th Debutante of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Emerald Empire, a community organization modeled after the national organization that was created by gay bar owners in early 1965 as a means to “stand in solidarity with one another under the pressure of police harassment,” according to the ISCEE’s website.

One of Chartreuse’s numbers was a tribute piece to transgender people that died due to hate crimes. Her dress was made of names of those who have been killed, and her piece was an original track that blended the voices of news announcers announcing the deaths of transgender individuals and the song “Praying” by Ke$ha.

“The performance was so tastefully done,” Wishnia said of Chatruese’s tribute performance.

Chartreuse performs a tribute to the recent fallen LGBT victims. The LGBTQA3 Alliance holds its annual drag show at the EMU Ballroom in Eugene, Oregon on Febuary 3, 2018. (Devin Roux/Emerald)

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Conversations across cultures: Tutoring program sparks friendships between domestic and international students at UO

Aziz Binhazzaa was anxious about his recent arrival to the United States; his only exposure to the English language was through movies and pop culture. So when he came to study abroad in Eugene, he looked for help. Aziz signed up for the American English Institute’s Tutoring and Conversation Partner Program: a one-on-one session held twice a week for international students to practice their oral English skills with domestic students at the University of Oregon.

During his first week on campus, Aziz, an international student from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, walked around UO’s EMU looking for Elizabeth Welte, a sophomore from Las Vegas, Nevada. When he found his conversation partner seated at a table, he sat across from Welte, in a hurry to introduce himself. Feeling nervous, but excited about his stay in the United States, Aziz jumped straight into the conversation. “Um, what is the Bill of Rights?”

Full of unanswered questions, international students like Aziz can feel overwhelmed when they arrive at UO. From adapting to the environment to navigating everyday life, international students need help adjusting.

AEI conversation partners are there to make the transition easier.

Although conversation partners are technically paid tutors, the exchange between participants often leads to a greater cross-cultural understanding — for the student and the tutor. But more than that, conversation partners are the first casual American social experience for international students and even sometimes their first real American friend.

Aziz & Lizzie

Aziz Binhazzaa speaks with his conversation partner Elizabeth Welte. (Natalie Waitt-Gibson)

In the conversation partner selection process, international students provide information about their major and interests so domestic students can choose a partner who is a good match. Since Aziz was interested in business, Welte, a business major, selected Aziz based on his similar interests. But that doesn’t mean their conversations are just about business.

“The first thing he wanted to do was learn about the Constitution. And I thought, ‘Oh boy, here we go,’” said Welte, who chuckled alongside Aziz as they reminisced about their first session as conversation partners.

“I’m not even interested in history,” Aziz said. “I thought, ‘if I’m going to live in the United States for some time, a part of me needs to learn U.S. history, so I can understand the country a bit more.’”

Aziz and Welte have met twice a week every week for the past two terms, finally moving on from U.S. history to casual conversations — ones that you might have with your best friends. When Welte was considering leaving UO to return to her home and attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas next year, Aziz was there to help.

“It felt like I was taking a step back, but we talked about it and it’s not a step back,” Welte said. “He is my best friend and was part of my decision to go home. I came to him; as someone who tried something new, and being a business person, I just asked, ‘what is your advice?’”

Since 1980, the AEI tutoring program has helped international students improve their English. Of the 3,200 international students at UO, AEI is a program for those who aren’t proficient in English. Tutors aid teachers in classrooms and provide peer-to-peer support in the conversation partner program. Their goal is to enhance international students’ experience in the U.S. education system, provide knowledge of university resources and help students adjust to the Pacific Northwest culture.

“I didn’t know what to do. Is it difficult to get around? Is it easy? I wasn’t sure, but Lizzie helped me a lot to settle in,” Aziz said.

“One of the first things he asked me was ‘where can I get a haircut?’ Yes you could’ve just looked it up, but I knew where a good one was and I knew if he went to a salon instead of a barbershop, he wouldn’t have had his beard trimmed,” she said; Aziz laughed and stroked his beard.

“It’s the little things about living here that international students can mix up, but I’m here as a resource for him,” said Welte. “That’s what conversation partners do.”

Tomoka & Ellie

Originally from Chiba, Japan, Tomoka Uechi was eager to study abroad in Oregon. Her conversation partner, Ellie Yeo, was just as excited to begin her language teaching career. Yeo didn’t know quite yet, but she’d signed up to do a lot more that just teach.

During Uechi’s first term at UO, she felt as though her living situation was not ideal. It was set up for her by AEI and she was living too far from campus, which meant being far from her friends, classes and conversation partner. Uechi wanted a change, but wasn’t sure where to begin.

“Tomoka wanted to get an apartment last fall, so instead of sitting down and tutoring, we went apartment hunting together,” Yeo said.

“Oh yeah, Ellie helped me a lot!” Uechi replied.

“We did the application process together, and now she lives closer to campus and closer to her friends,” Yeo said.

Sometimes, international students are more concerned about their lifestyle while studying abroad than their school work. Both are important, and that’s why Uechi believes that simple conversations are just as valuable as a classroom lesson.

“For learning English, there are huge gaps between what I learn in class and what I learn with a conversation partner. In a class, the teacher teaches me grammar all term, but I rarely practice it. With a conversation partner, it’s just easy conversation. I don’t need to worry about grammar, but I can practice it,” Uechi said. “Ellie knows my background, and I trust her. I also like to ask her about slang; something they don’t teach us in class but is part of the English language.”

Zhikai & Natasha

Conversation partners Natasha Willow and Zhikai Wu. (Adam Eberhart/Daily Emerald)

International students often experience culture shock upon arriving in the U.S., even about little things like using Facebook as a form of socializing or something as traditional as following a religion. For Zhikai Wu, Christmas was the most shocking cultural event that occurred during his time as an AEI student.

“On Christmas, apparently everyone needs to give each other presents? That’s a new festival for me. I’ve never celebrated Christmas. In China we just celebrate New Year,” Wu said.

“Oh! I remember you told me something about Chinese New Year that shocked me too,” said Natasha Willow, Wu’s conversation partner and native Oregonian.

Willow, a Chinese major studying to be a language teacher, claims to learn just as much as she teaches. “In Chinese New Year, people give out dumplings for people to eat, but some of them have coins, and if you eat one with a coin in it, it’s good luck! I have always known about Chinese New Year, but never about that.”

“I like sharing our different cultures. And Natasha is a good partner for that,” Wu said. Wu is planning to graduate from the AEI to attend UO’s Lundquist School of Business. To do that, he must first pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

For international students to move on from practicing grammar, reading and writing, they must test their English proficiency and comprehension skills, including conversational English. Wu feels that his conversation partner experience will give him an advantage come test time.

The AEI program

Behind the front desk at Agate Hall. (Adam Eberhardt/Daily Emerald)

Although the conversation partner program is an important aspect of AEI, international students are not forced to take on the one-on-one sessions. They can instead participate in the myriad of other activities provided by AEI, such as the homework help desk, course electives based on American culture and the weekly coffee hour, an event where anyone can mingle and have a cup of coffee.

But not surprisingly, international students value the importance of practicing one-on-one English with native speakers. Of the 160 international students enrolled in AEI this term, approximately 70 to 75 percent have requested a conversation partner. In past terms, AEI had about 50 percent of its students request a partner. This increase could be attributed to AEI tutor coordinator Karen Ulloa, who made the process of requesting a partner more accessible.

“The conversation partner program is incredibly useful to both parties,” Ulloa said.  “For the international students, it’s peer to peer. In classrooms they have teachers who vary in ages, and their living situations –– most of the time –– are with people who speak their own language. So this gives them the opportunity to speak to someone who is around the same age, has the same interests that is also a college student.”

Ulloa believes that the conversation partner program is not a one-way tutoring session for international students, but a chance for domestic students to learn about the world and make cross-cultural connections. “It’s opening hearts and opening minds,” Ulloa said.

Bridging the cultural gap

Last September, when Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women drivers, Aziz and Welte dug into a cross-cultural conversation about it. “We also spent a lot of time [talking] about women being able to drive. I had a lot of old-fashioned ideas about Saudi Arabia,” Welte said. “He came to me so happy when he found out, and now his sister wants to get a bunch of cars.”

Aziz believes that cultural understanding is one of the advantages of speaking to people from a different country or culture.

“When you read about Saudi Arabia, it’s not as easy as it is to talk to somebody from Saudi Arabia,” Aziz said. “It’s not like women were imprisoned before it was legal for them to drive. We had drivers, chauffeurs, transportation, and that isn’t included in a news article most of the time.”

He feels that cross-cultural conversations clear up misconceptions about a culture, like his talk with Welte.

“We also had so many discussions on freedom of speech whenever there were protests on campus, like the Genocide Awareness Project one,” Welte added. “We spent a lot of time talking about why they can do this and why it’s legal for them to do this.”   

“To me, in my culture, if something appears wrong, you cannot talk about it. However” — Aziz briefly paused to side-eye at Welte, who had taught him how to use the word “however”— “Here in America it is completely different. Here in America you have free speech and can talk about whatever you want as long as you’re not violent. To me this is very interesting. It’s not like this in Saudi Arabia.”

The conversation partner program is laying a foundation for cross-cultural understanding. For Aziz, this exchange doesn’t come from reading books, but rather by speaking to people of another culture, immersing oneself in that environment and having constant curiosity for a whole new world.

“I guess it’s a good thing I asked about the Bill of Rights the first day!”

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Administrators aim to improve communication with students through office hours, but few students attend

Last Thursday, University of Oregon administrator Justine Carpenter sat in an empty boardroom waiting for students to arrive to her scheduled office hours. No students came.  

The UO administration is now offering office hours in an effort to improve communication with students through discussions this term. Every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m., one administrator will lead a topic-driven discussion with UO students in the EMU.

“People can talk about anything. The topic is just an entry point,” said Kris Winter, associate vice president and dean of students.

Past topics have included self care, general education requirements and promoting yourself on social media.

The new administration office hours are intended to connect students and administrators to build lasting relationships and foster productive communication.

The idea came from Winter after she went on a “listening tour” of various student groups last fall.

Winter sat in on nine different student groups, including Oregon Hillel and the Muslim Student Association, to hear what students were saying about their experiences at UO.

“I think that we can always improve communications between students and administration,” Winter said.

According to Winter, the majority of the feedback she received centered around the fact that students did not feel like they knew their administrators.

“This came up fall term. I wanted to be responsive to a tangible ‘ask’ that I heard from some students. That’s why I chose to put it into action this term,” Winter said.

Winter sent out emails to UO administrators to see if they would be interested in hosting office hours for students. She received several positive responses from administrators that wanted to participate.

Carpenter, director of multicultural and identity-based support services, held office hours on Feb. 1 on the topic of “having difficult conversations.”

“I think that having difficult conversations is something that all of us may have to do at one time or another,” Carpenter said.

No students attended these office hours.

According to Winter, these office hours have had low student attendance. She hopes to engage more students and invites them to come to the coming hours.

One way to improve attendance, according to Carpenter, is to offer more incentives to the students, such as free snacks or topics they can connect with.

Carpenter said that either “students aren’t identifying with the topics or they just don’t know that these topics are being discussed.”

Winter has reached out to students through advertising in Quick Quack emails that all students receive. She is open to student suggestions and input for topic selection and increased student involvement.

“I think it’s important for students to know that administrators care about their UO experience,” Winter said.

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Schedule for February’s office hours

Administrator Date    Topic
Justine Carpenter  2/1    Having difficult conversations
Renae DeSautel  2/7    Helping a fellow student in distress
DJ Kelly-Quattrocchi  2/8    Code switching: How do identities impact communication?
Cora Bennett  2/14    Student transitions to the UO
Marcus Langford  2/15    Looking for feedback: UO bias response efforts
Doneka Scott  2/21    What is student success?
Laurie Woodward  2/22    Listening session: How can the EMU improve services for you?
Sheryl Eyster  2/28     Developing meaningful connections with staff and faculty

 

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Video: Don Pellum talks about where the defense needs to improve

Georgia state will come to Autzen Stadium ready to play hard and fast against the Ducks. Watch the video below to hear what Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum and Bralon Addison are doing to prepare for Georgia State, and how players reacted to the opening weeks of college football.

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