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May 31, 2013

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Sam Dotters-Katz begins second term as ASUO President

On May 25, 2013, Sam Dotters-Katz — an Oregon Law rising 3L — began his second term as president for the Associated Students of the University of Oregon. In 2008, during his junior year as an undergraduate political science and history major at the University of Oregon, he was elected to the highest student position at the university for the first time by what he calls an accident. 

Dotters-Katz grew up caring immensely about national politics and social issues, yet had never previously become involved in student government or campus student groups. A friend's suggestion that they partner as running mates is what ultimately spurred his first run for the ASUO presidency; however, this year was a different story.

"We started working on this year's campaign in November — a six-month campaign — fully aware of what we were getting ourselves into. As opposed to the first time around where we were woefully ignorant about what it was going to take and what we were getting ourselves into, but it was one of the happiest accidents I ever had," said Dotters-Katz.

During his first term as ASUO president, Dotters-Katz set out to make the ASUO relevant and important to the everyday UO student. He did this by focusing on initiatives that impacted a wide variety of students such as keeping the library open for 24 hours and extending the hours of the 79x bus route, which travels from campus to the student housing nearAutzen Stadium.

According to Dotters-Katz, serving as the ASUO president was difficult, time-consuming, and emotionally challenging but completely worth it. Upon beginning his studies at Oregon Law, Dotters-Katz didn’t plan on re-involving himself in ASUO politics until the controversial non-renewal of former UO President Richard Lariviere's contract in 2011. He saw that there was a need to have students’ voices heard at the highest levels; thus, he created a political action committee, which worked to get students up to Salem to lobby for higher-education reform.

"When you really become involved in the ASUO, you come to care about the well-being of the organization and the effect that it can have on campus,” remarked Dotters-Katz. "It's difficult to watch what I believed was a real degradation of the potential of what the ASUO could be — the use of the office for personal and political gain. It made me want to get involved again."

During his second term as ASUO president, his primary goal is to depoliticize the student government. Currently, the ASUO is highly partisan. Dotters-Katz aims to reduce partisan politics through two tactics: structural reform and increased power for the legislative branch.

Structural reform would permanently put in place a new operation system that reduces the party configuration of the ASUO, such as removing the grievance system, and transferring the power of appointment to the legislative branch of the ASUO. Currently, the ASUO president is the only person that can appoint students into positions, which gives the office a significant amount of partisan power. During his upcoming term, Dotters-Katz wants to share much of that power in order to create a more cohesive student government.

More than that, he wants to create an ASUO culture and environment that promotes people who are there for the right reason: a good-faith desire to help other students.

Now, coming into his second term as ASUO president, Dotters-Katz feels that attending Oregon Law has empowered him to effect change on a larger level because he has a deeper understanding of how the law works and how laws are enacted.

"The student community and the UO mean a lot to me. I've benefited so much from growing up here. I knew that I could potentially get back involved, even if not on campus, in the community in some kind of service aspect. The opportunity and connections were here for me, and Oregon Law just seemed like a great fit," said Dotters-Katz.

In the future, he wants a career that allows him to use the skills and knowledge base that he gained at Oregon Law to help people on a small or large scale – whether it's one person at a time or a large number of people at a time.

"The law is one of the best ways to do that."

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