Mario Campbell is a Navy veteran. He signed up right out of high school in 1999, not knowing that in his four years he would see two wars. Stationed on an island in the Indian Ocean, he watched as the bombs fell on Baghdad. Now at Portland State, he is running for student body president.
“If it wasn’t for the GI Bill, I don’t know if I’d be going to school,” said Campbell, a senior in finance. Not your typical student, he is busy as president of the College Republicans, a PSU wrestler and a Student Fee Committee member.
His running mate, Mayela Herrera, is a San Diegan who originally went to Oregon State. She said she transferred to PSU because she “felt it was more diverse.” Herrera, a junior in health sciences with an eye on nursing, runs Los Mujeres, a student group that helps students of color transition into university life. As a first-generation college student herself, she knows how hard it is to begin college.
Aside from leading Los Mujeres, she is also the Multicultural Affairs director of ASPSU and board chair of the Oregon Student Association’s Oregon Students of Color Coalition.
Campbell and Herrera said they do not see their extreme involvement as unusual, but rather something that should be more commonplace at PSU.
“I’d like to make the campus a place where all students get involved,” Campbell said. This doesn’t mean every student has to go into student government, they noted, just so students are aware of the multitude of student groups out there that might benefit them. With each person paying student fees every term, Campbell argued, he or she should use the system to its full potential.
Herrera said her involvement with multicultural groups showed her “there’s a lack of communication between student groups.” She said this is a detriment to the student groups, and is determined to fix the problem. She helped organize the Roots Festival, a multicultural event that will occur on June 2. Ozomatli will play a free concert at PSU for the event.
Herrera said she believes strengthening the ties between all student groups would be vastly beneficial to Portland State. She and Campbell have made this one of their top priorities.
Their other goals include improving the quality and accessibility of education at Portland State, and making student government more transparent and accountable for its action. They would like to see ASPSU serve every student by having more than just “one group of students running it all the time,” they said.
“He’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat,” Herrera said of their differing viewpoints. Their slogan, “Bridging the gap … What can brown do for you?” highlights their conciliatory tone while emphasizing their diverse backgrounds.
This combined with Campbell’s policy experience and Herrera’s familiarity with student groups, they said, makes them more than qualified to run student government and act for all students’ interests.
“We’re pushing for textbook tax write-offs,” Campbell said. He said he has talked with student leaders from OSU and the University of Oregon, which have similar programs to the one he is proposing. He said he is aware that lowering book prices is unlikely but keeping the prices where they are and telling people of the alternatives, like Book Ghost, is feasible.
Practicality seems to be a theme of their campaign.
They are against Higher One and Sodexho but said it was unlikely that the companies will leave campus. In their view, to deal with Higher One, the financial aid distributor at PSU, is to inform the students. “Unite and opt out. Try to get rid of the $10 charge to get a new [student identification] card.”
Tuition cannot be lowered but maybe, they said, they could keep it from rising.
And fixing student government, which they said they consider to be in disarray, will likely take longer than the year they would be in office, Campbell said, but they would “build the base.” He vowed to hold student leaders accountable to their responsibilities. He said he would also try to set up weekly meetings with the university’s president as well as get a non-voting student advocate on City Council. “That way there’d be a connection between Portland and Portland State,” Campbell said.
Campbell and Herrera said their paramount objective is to make Portland State a better university.
“Your degree is only as good as the university you leave behind,” Campbell said.