Student body President Courtney Morse and Vice President Jesse Bufton assumed office Thursday, launching a yearlong term that will end on June 1, 2007. Morse and Bufton won a hotly contested election in March by just 17 votes, narrowly defeating the Ryan Klute-Ana Johns slate 761 to 744.
Morse and Bufton ran on the Progressive slate, promoting diversity, affordability and sustainability that promised to fight for more accessible higher education and to add majors such as queer studies to the PSU curriculum. Morse and Bufton, both 20 years old, are considerably younger than the president and vice president of the last several administrations.
Both sophomores next year, Morse and Bufton served together on the student senate. Morse has also been heavily involved in OSPIRG, working as the advocacy organization’s chair until she declared her candidacy for ASPSU president.
The president and vice president are the top offices of the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU), the campus student government.
“Now is when it all starts. We finally have the access to organize ASPSU into something that can accomplish some of the biggest goals we’ve seen in a long time,” Morse said on her first official day in office. “We’ve been working all term to build our executive staff and our senators. We’re truly in the position to make the biggest changes here at PSU.”
Morse brings to her presidency a wide breadth of experience in grassroots organizing, something she says will play a key role in accomplishing the goals of her campaign.
“We know success means accomplishing our goals of affordability, diversity and sustainability,” she said. “Using this new grassroots way of organizing, ASPSU is going to happen.”
As vice president, Bufton will oversee the student senate, which spent much of spring term defunct because it was unable to meet quorum.
“I’m really excited about the leadership in the senate this year. We made a mission statement for the senate and outlined important things we want to accomplish,” Bufton said. “A lot of the senators are taking the job as a personal mission.”
Morse and Bufton take over for President Erin Devaney and Vice President Sa’eed Haji, who oversaw a tumultuous year that included several bitter battles with the administration.
In the fall the administration intervened when the student senate attempted to hold a special election that would have put several changes to the ASPSU constitution on the ballot, citing legal issues. Legal issues arose again when university President Daniel Bernstine refused to sign off on the Student Fee Committee budget.
That incident galvanized the often disparate branches of ASPSU, which many have criticized for lack of communication and petty bickering.
“This year we’ve had a lot of major hurdles,” Devaney said. “I think in the end we’ve come out on top. We have developed some amazing leaders that are taking over.”
During her presidency, Devaney focused heavily on lobbying for higher education issues at the state and national level. She served as chair of the board of directors for the Oregon Student Association, a statewide lobbying group that coordinates student governments. She also served on the board of directors for the United States Student Association, which advocates for students to the federal government.
Both positions helped significantly elevate Portland State student government’s political profile in Salem and in Washington, D.C., campaigning for lower tuition, expanded financial aid and other programs benefiting college students.
“We’ve exponentially increased advocacy at the state and federal level,” Devaney said.
During the inauguration ceremony Thursday evening, Haji reflected on the past year and noted that Devaney had been “an inspiration.”
“Erin has been there when the campus has needed a leader,” he said.