ASPSU stays busy with upcoming elections and potential faculty strike

With the upcoming student government elections, a possible faculty strike and renegotiations with Higher One, the Associated Students of Portland State University have been busy.

With spring term approaching, student government elections will soon be in full swing and PSU students will have the opportunity to run for ASPSU president, vice president and senate positions.

“Voter turnout was approximately 600 students last year, I believe, and this year we’ll be postering, tabling and reaching out to student groups and resource centers to attempt to involve underrepresented communities to improve upon that,” said Harris Foster, current ASPSU president.

Registration to run in the ASPSU elections opened March 11 and will end on May 2. Orientation for candidates marks the beginning of campaigns, which will begin May 1 and continue until the end of May, when the winners are announced.

Typically the ASPSU president can be re-elected a maximum of one time, serving a maximum of two years in office. However, Foster will be graduating this spring and his term as president will end on May 31, leaving his position open for next year.

Foster explained that he hopes to take an active role in elections this year, which will include promoting the campaigns through posters and tabling and encouraging students to both run and vote.

“There was absolutely zero effort, other than that of the candidates, to get students to vote/run in ASPSU elections last year,” Foster said. “Anything that we do this year will be better than last year; however, we will be goal-setting next week, as far as how many students voters we [are] trying to achieve.”

Some other ways to get students involved in the election process will be through several campaigning events during May, including debates and meet-and-greets.

According to Thanh Ngo, a justice on the ASPSU Judicial Board, debates are planned to take place on May 8 and 13 in Parkway North and May 16 for the Food For Thought town hall debate.

Two meet-and-greets are expected to take place in May. The first will be on May 6 from 5 to 7 p.m., and the second date has not yet been confirmed.

“The second meet-and-greet date is still not finalized,” Ngo said. “As we are looking at some budget issues and room-booking issues.”

Aside from campaigning, ASPSU has also been present in mediation sessions between the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the university administration.

In their involvement, Rayleen McMillan, university affairs director for ASPSU, stated that ASPSU has recently taken a stance on the issue in support of the faculty.

“ASPSU has a strong sense that the learning conditions students face are a direct reflection of the working conditions encountered by our university’s staff and faculty,” McMillan said. “It is with the student body’s interest in mind that we have adopted a stance in support of PSU-AAUP regarding their declaration of impasse and potential strike authorization activity.”

ASPSU is working to keep students updated on their involvement with the strike through their newsletters.

“Our data indicates that half of the student body opened the informational newsletter that ASPSU sent out about the status of AAUP contract negotiations,” Foster said.

ASPSU has also been working on renegotiations with Higher One, a student banking service and ID card company that processes student financial aid refunds at PSU.

In the next two weeks, ASPSU will work to solidify final tasks, which include reducing and phasing out fees as well as confirming the location for a fifth ATM on campus. This location is expected to be in or near the Urban Plaza.

“We’re looking at the best practices of other banks in order to hold Higher One to a higher standard. In essence, we’re attempting to ensure that a student isn’t being forced to use a bank that they would not choose on a free market,” Foster said.

Being a third-party financial aid company, Higher One is currently being investigated in Washington, D.C., in regard to student fairness and fees compared to regular banks.

The state of Oregon has also begun lobbying for Higher One fairness. Foster says they are looking into “whether or not it is fair on a national level.”

ASPSU has been using both an ID card survey from 2009 and, more recently, a survey done specifically on student feedback of Higher One in fall of 2013 during the negotiations.