Senators in the Associated Students of Portland State University held a meeting on Monday, Sept. 26 to nominate a new chairperson and discuss ways of promoting equality and human rights.
Vote OR Vote and National Boycott Day were two big issues discussed at the senate meeting.
The first is a nonpartisan voter registration drive being organized in partnership with Oregon Student Association. In 2014, Vote OR Vote set a registration record high of 55,000 student voters registered from Oregon schools. The drive is currently underway at PSU.
The purpose of National Boycott Day, although triggered by police brutality and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is to advance human rights for everyone, everywhere. Senators passed a motion to write a resolution to hold a day of support at PSU.
Representatives from Students United for Palestinian Rights, or SUPER, attended and spoke at the senate meeting in support of the resolution. “We’re not dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy, we’re dealing with people suffering every single minute,” said one SUPER member. “People suffering is not a game, and we need to protest all of this oppression. We have to live together, and we have to understand there are boundaries that cannot be crossed.”
“It is international human rights that we care about,” said another attendee, also of SUPER.
The resolution stands with a similar international affairs resolution that is carried over from last year’s ASPSU senate for PSU to divest from companies that violate human rights.
PSU student Samuel Matz spoke up regarding editing specific language in the international affairs resolution in order to “avoid being anti-Semitic or anti-Arab [and to] focus on human rights violations.”
Investment sanctions against identified companies include Hewlett Packard, Caterpillar, G4S and Motorola. Matz suggested adding two more companies, Cemex and Arison.
“Last year PSU had about $55 million invested in the stock market,” said ASPSU senator Emily Korte. “We don’t manage that. We go through JP Morgan as our investment banker.”
During the 2015–16 academic year, ASPSU passed the Environmental, Social and Government Strategy. “It acts as a filter for how JP Morgan invests our money in the first place,” Korte said, regarding the environment. “We are no longer invested in fossil fuels. Under social and government there’s stuff like private prison divestment. [Divesting from] private prisons was passed two terms ago, so that should be going into effect.”
Korte said divesting is not easy. “The reason it’s hard to find out where we’re invested is because we have to go through the financial department at Portland State, who has to then contact JP Morgan, who has to check what we’re invested in at the time based on the stock market, then get back to us. And the stock market changes all the time, so that by that time the information might not even be relevant.”
The resolution will be voted on at the next ASPSU senate meeting on Oct. 10.
Appointees at the meeting included Shannon Warner, finance director; Fio Law, senator; Brent Finkbeiner, senator; Donald Thompson, Student Fee Committee; Joshua Friedlein, judicial board member; and Lisa Kwon, judicial board member. There are still two senate seats that need to be filled due to the resignations of Rachel Ferguson and Salih Mahmood.
Brent Finkbeiner was also nominated as senate chair. Finkbeiner joins PSU from Clackamas Community College where he was at first a student government senator and then president. During his two years at CCC he said he actively lobbied and advocated on behalf of students. Big issues he worked on include more money from the state for tuition and campus safety improvements.
“I want to make sure the work we do in ASPSU moves forward,” Finkbeiner said. “I don’t want to have a lot of contention between administration and students. We need to work together on a lot of our big issues to make real improvements, to move our policies forward.”
In hopes of developing and implementing policies to make sure students are heard, Finkbeiner said, “I would love to see a regular town hall or group gathering where students are expressing their opinions. I want more students to know that ASPSU is out there representing them, we’re out there to listen to all students, especially students who are struggling.”
“The student government has a decent amount of power,” Korte said. “We are trying to accomplish things. My function is to represent the majority of the way people feel on the Portland State campus.”
ASPSU has a diverse group of senators who are there to listen. “There is always one person that probably sees [your] side of the story, every meeting,” Korte said.
Finkbeiner, Korte and President Liela Forbes invite all students to come to the meetings and get involved, even if it’s just popping into the senate meetings for half an hour.
Meetings are every other Monday from 5–8 p.m.
More information may be found on the ASPSU webpage: community.pdx.edu/student-government/, and their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/96072382273/