ASOSU congresswomen not afraid to step up, support underrepresented voices

Collegiate student government? It's sort of a "Legally Blonde"-type case. Woman enters male-dominated field, proves her worth and paves the way for others to follow in her footsteps. Cue catchy film score.

Except at Oregon State University, women aren't facing discrimination in the field of student government. In fact, several female congresswomen directly mentioned the support they receive from their male peers. So why is there such a discrepancy in gender representation within the Associated Students of Oregon State University Congress?

"Sometimes we just see student government as an overly male-dominated thing," Rep. Tyler Morrison said. "Every year, there are people that are of a minority, and women in general, that don't run because they don't see themselves in those spaces."

Morrison is the only female in the ASOSU House of Representatives. Self-identifying as a woman of color, Morrison said she tries to be a present reminder of campus voices that often go unheard, like those of women and minority groups.

Sen. Mykael Moore agreed that an increasing array of voices should be heard within student government.

"I definitely think that female involvement is crucial to the survival of ASOSU," Moore said. "Not because the boys can't do it, but because you have to have some kind of diversity."

Moore joined the ASOSU Senate earlier this term, filling an open position at the urging of her sorority sister, ASOSU Vice President Victoria Redman. As soon as the legislative spots opened winter term, Redman looked for more female applicants to bring greater diversity to the ASOSU congress.

Despite the number disparity -- one female in House and four in Senate -- no real issues have arisen from the gender gap.

"It's definitely intimidating at first to come in as a girl and have all these guys looking at you when you're the only girl in the room," Moore said. "But the guys don't really care ... if there are girls there. There's no discrimination; you have an opinion and that's how they see you."

Sen. Shelby Porter concurred, saying that while she feels female leadership is lacking, student government provides equal opportunities for both genders.

"Most issues that we do pass are pretty gender-neutral, so that's why I encourage all students to be involved with ASOSU if there's anything they want to change," Porter said.

And effecting change is precisely what these driven women are all about.

"I want to be effective," Moore said. "This isn't just a resume-fluffer for me; this is something I'm really passionate about and really do love."

One of Moore's primary goals as the academic year winds down is producing bills that the student body as a whole really supports. Moore said she has no interest in drafting or sponsoring a bill only supported by the ASOSU Congress; the general student body must show interest to gain her approval.

Morrison noted that the ASOSU legislature's effectiveness can be improved through greater voter turnout and student involvement. Moore and Morrison expressed interest regarding the newly introduced bill that would reallocate seats within the House of Representatives.

Under the proposed bill, constituency groups would be created within the House of Representatives, leading campus organizations to select students to represent them specifically. As a member of the Oregon Students of Color Coalition and employee of the OSU Black Cultural Center, Morrison hopes to help promote voter interest.

"Every year, we have a voter registration drive and it's for the whole campus," Morrison said. "It's basically going to the Women's Center and the cultural centers ... and the Pride Center ... to make sure that those people vote as well. It's making sure that minority groups are represented, as well."

Porter noted that only 12 percent of the population turned out to vote last year, leaving much room for improvement and involvement. Although Porter herself will not be running again this spring, she said she has heard of several females who expressed interest. Moore noted that she will be participating in the election and has been encouraging her friends to do the same.

"I like the fact that it's a really open forum where you can express what you want to say," Moore said. "I like that I have the power ... that I can change something and get the perspectives of students. (Students) can really make a difference."

Tori Hittner

Higher education reporter

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