The origins of student government at OSU are rooted in an 1897 campaign to fund the football team through the establishment of incidental fees. Although the College Board of Regents rejected this initial move toward the systematic funding of student activities, a student conference three years later set forth a proposed constitution and a set of bylaws for the establishment of a student governmental body that would have the power to institute and regulate student body fees. This proposal was approved by a vote of the student body and faculty in 1900 and resulted in the formation of the college’s first student government, at that time called the Student Assembly.
Structurally, the Assembly consisted of all enrolled students, but was governed by two bodies: the Executive Committee and the Board of Control. The Executive Committee was comprised of a president elected from the senior class, three vice presidents from each of the senior, junior, and senior classes, and a secretary. The Board of Control was made up of the Executive Committee, three faculty members chosen by the college President, and an alumnus appointed by the Alumni Association.
With its basic role of funding and managing student media, debate contests, athletics, and other campus activities, the assembly established a student body fee, which at first voluntary, became mandatory of all enrolled students by 1909. Final approval of student activity budgets and managerial appointments such as the campus newspaper and yearbook editorships were subject to the Board of Control and a General Manager who oversaw many aspects of the board. During the 1920s, the college dissolved the Board of Control and assigned management of student activities to new committees, such as the Student Affairs Committee and the Committee on Student Interests, established in large part to de-centralize authority over student affairs.
In 1948, the structure of the Associated Students of Oregon State (as it was known by this time) underwent a fundamental change with the introduction of a senate body vested with the power to introduce legislation, approve the ASOSC budget, make changes to the constitution and statutes, and recall any elected or appointed member of student government. The creation of the senate represented a major shift in policy for the Associated Students with decision-making power over student activities now residing with students elected by their peers rather than a board or committee. The constitution set the voting membership of the senate at one senator for each 500 students enrolled in the 11 schools that comprised the college and each school was guaranteed to be represented by at least one senator. The first senate consisted of 28 members. Although the constitution defines the president and other members of the executive branch as part of the senate, they did not have the power to vote for or introduce legislation.
In 1966, a judicial branch consisting of the Student Traffic Court and the ASOSU Justice Commission was added to student government. Vested with the power to review the constitutionality of all legislation introduced by the senate, the commission also served as the body for hearing grievances from ASOSU members about possible student election violations and legislation passed by the senate potentially deemed incompatible with the ASOSU constitution and statutes. Sometime in the 1980s, the commission was renamed the ASOSU Judicial Board, with essentially the same function.
To assist student government in working with student organizations, long-term strategizing, legal research, and other special projects with a perspective outside the senate and executive branch, ASOSU created the position of Student Advocate in 1986.
In 1994, ASOSU adopted a bicameral senate structure that gave graduate students voting status in a senate body of their own equal to their undergraduate counterparts. Membership in the Graduate Senate was set at one representative per 100 graduate students enrolled at OSU.
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