January 15, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Blake Robinsons senior year at Eastern Oregon University is proving to be more eventful than he expected.

Robinson is beginning his first term as EOUs student body president.

It is an honor to be able to serve, Robinson said. Im enjoying it but there is a little more pressure than Im used to.

Robinson began the school year as student body vice president. He was promoted to president late last year after Sean Phillips was dismissed by the Student Senate.

Phillips was dismissed because he did not call enough meetings of the executive branch of Easterns student government.

The executive branch is comprised of high-ranking student body officers that include the president, vice president, director of communications, director of political affairs and others.

Phillips believes he was improperly dismissed and has filed an appeal to an EOU arbitration board.

Robinson points out that Phillips did a number of positive things in student government.

He did a good job of recruiting senators. That is where his strength was, Robinson said. His shoes will be hard to fill in this respect.

EOUs new student body president has a full plate of projects. His top priority now is getting students to urge legislators to make higher education a funding priority.

Gov. John Kitzhaber is proposing that state funding for Oregons state universities be cut by 10 percent because of the states 2001-03 revenue shortfall. Robinson wants to reduce this percentage, noting that Kitzhaber is proposing that many state programs and agencies have their budgets cut by a lower percentage.

Robinson, from Troutdale, said it would not be fair for higher education to shoulder a disproportionate share of the cuts. He is working to get students at Eastern and across the state to urge legislators to give greater support to higher education.

Robinson is doing much of this work as a member of the Oregon Student Association, an organization of university students from throughout the state. The OSA is distributing postcards that contain messages urging legislators to support higher education. Students will be asked to sign them and send them to lawmakers.

Our goal is to send each legislator 200 postcards, Robinson said.

Robinson also is helping devise a system through which student evaluations of professors and their classes would be made available to other students.

We dont want to get professors in trouble. We just want students to know what they can expect to do (in specific classes). This would help improve student retention, the new president said.

The evaluation information might be posted on Web sites or made available in a book at Easterns Pierce Library.

Robinson also is working to get a new system in place for the allotment of student incidental fees. The system will involve more students in the process. Presently a committee of eight students determines how about $1 million in incidental fee funds are spent on campus each year. Phillips wants to expand the committee to 18 students.

Eastern students pay about $195 a term for incidental fees. The money helps fund such things as athletics, theater, the Nightingale Gallery and the student newspaper.

Robinson devised his plan after serving on the incidental fee committee last year. He added that several hurdles must be cleared before the new system can be put in place.

In 2000-01, Robinson also served as editor of The Voice, EOUs student newspaper.

It helped me develop an understanding of the issues and whats going on statewide, Robinson said. It also helped me learn how to manage a staff and achieve goals.

Robinson has a double-major in English and in philosophy, politics and economics. He expects to graduate in June and later attend law school.

Robinson said he has benefitted enormously from his student government experience.

I dont think that there is any better way to get to know people, Robinson said. It is also a good way to get introduced to public policy.

As for his first weeks as president, he said, Things are working. I couldnt be happier with the unity we have.