The race this year for the presidency and vice presidency of the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) isn’t really about issues. In fact, both sides seem to agree about what the important issues student face today are.
Instead, it’s about the approach. The candidates, Amanda Barron and Lindsey Craven and Erin Devaney and Molly Woon, have very different visions of how to reach their similar goals.
For the past several years, ASPSU has done little to resolve the rift between student government and student groups at PSU. Student government’s rare achievement of goals has often come at the cost of increased dissent between student leaders. ASPSU increasingly resembles a private club rather than government representative of the 24,000 students who attend Portland State.
For many years the choice in candidates for student government’s highest office has been between a pair of torchbearers from the current administration and a set of outsider also-rans with promising ideas but little hope of achieving them.
This year, however, the outsiders are no longer "also-rans," but compelling candidates that have the potential to shake up student government in a way that has needed to be done for many years.
And that’s why the Vanguard endorses Erin Devaney and Molly Woon for the ASPSU offices of president and vice president.
Devaney, a current Student Fee Committee member, has proven to be a levelheaded thinker who is willing to take criticism to heart.
Through her involvement in the SFC, she has shown that she can overcome blind division and generate a compromise solution. During this year’s squabble over the funding level for OSPIRG, Devaney, the group’s SFC liaison, didn’t hold back from criticizing the committee processes, but still worked to offer a budget proposal that matched neither OSPIRG’s or their opponents, but would have funded the group at an operable level.
Devaney’s SFC voting record also shows her devotion to advocating for student groups of all kinds at Portland State.
During her time as president of the Portland State chapter of College Democrats, Woon has shown herself to be an effective organizer and a relentless advocate for causes she believes in. Using these skills in student government, she could be an effective whip for the long-dormant student senate.
For the past three years it has seemed as if there were two student governments: one that dwelled in the gleaming first floor ASPSU office and one that shuffled among crowded offices on the Smith mezzanine.
In order to resolve this unproductive division, student government needs a president that can bridge the gap between the ideas of ASPSU stalwarts and activist student groups. Devaney’s SFC work has shown she can do just that and Woon’s organizing skills have brought her into contact with many student leaders outside of room 112.
We think she could be a unifying force between disparate groups within student government. While we’re not convinced that the entire Devaney/Woon slate is as inclusively minded as they are, we think they can overcome that.
Both Devaney and Woon have felt the brunt of Student Leadership and Activities Programs’ often jackbooted policies, and have said they will dedicate themselves to redefining the relationship between student government and SALP (an advisory body which often has a larger role in ASPSU policy than many students think).
Amanda Barron has, by all accounts, fleshed out the new position of ASPSU federal affairs director and we’d hope she would continue in that role in the coming year. While she seems to have a sharp mind and even sharper rhetoric, it’s hard for us to imagine that a Barron/Craven slate win would open the door to a large group of students who have felt shut out for years.
Instead, it seems it would unfortunately signal to these students that ASPSU is still operating business as usual.
Even if Devaney isn’t the strongest public speaker in this year’s lot of candidates (that award clearly goes to Barron) she is capable of clearly stating her plans and her comments are filled with a passion that seems all too distant to Barron. Devaney seems to have rejected glossy politicking for a laid-back but honest approach.
We are also concerned that neither slate seemed to be able to articulate their specific strategies for how to accomplish their often lofty goals. But of course, that drawback has never prevented other students from running for these positions in the past, and is probably no indicator of their ability to fulfill the position adequately.
Although choosing Devaney/Woon over Barron/Craven was a narrow decision for our editorial board, it seems that the Devaney/Woon ticket has the greatest chance of accurately representing PSU’s largest constituency: students who probably don’t even know what ASPSU is, much less vote in an election.