Since this summer, student government has had a difficult time trying to keep staff positions filled in the senate, the executive staff, and on the judicial board.
The senate has made quorum at just five meetings since June. Though the student senate met during the last two weeks of October, it was several senators short of the 13 needed for quorum to vote on issues at weekly meetings before mid-October. The senate failed to meet quorum for the third week in a row, after Monday’s senate meeting was one senator short of quorum.
Vacant positions on the judicial board have also only recently been filled, and the executive staff is still short the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) administrative director position. After he was called into military service, judicial board chair Kenneth Godfrey resigned on Oct. 1, leaving the board one member short of the three needed to make quorum. Vice Chair Kenny Bondelie took Godfrey’s seat, Justice Molly Woon maintained her seat, and newly appointed Julian Jenkins filled the third seat.
Despite their troubles, ASPSU President Courtney Morse and Vice President Jesse Bufton say things are getting better.
“We’re building up a senate. Quorum has been re-identified by the judicial board, which also helps so that we didn’t need as much quorum,” said Morse. “Not only do we need less quorum but we’re also filling up senators so I feel like quorum is going to be stronger for the rest of the year.”
”It’s something that’s gaining momentum really quickly,” Bufton said. “Courtney, the class president, appointed both of the freshman class senators and she also filled some previously vacant seats.”
According to Bufton, ASPSU has a history of high turnover rates and he said it is a problem that is being addressed. ASPSU may try to provide senators with a monthly stipend as one way of addressing the issue. Bufton says that a stipend may provide more incentive for senators to hold their seats and get more done.
The senate currently has 12 senators that were elected last spring. If ASPSU filled the senate to its capacity at 25 voting seats (all appointed by Morse), the majority of the senators would be appointed by the president and not elected by the student body. Bufton said that this is what typically happens in the senate each year.
Bufton said the high turnover rate in the senate is because senators become discouraged when they do not have enough time between work and class, or because the issues they are concerned with are not being addressed by the ASPSU in the way they would like.
Often, senators resign if the president and vice president they campaigned with are not elected after the spring elections for student government.
”It can be hard when you work really hard to get elected for a month with a bunch of people and you don’t see them sitting next to you, and that’s something that’s happened historically,” Bufton said.
Even now that the senate has enough senators to make quorum, the new problem is getting enough of those senators to attend meetings. At Monday’s meeting, the senate was short just one senator of the 13 needed to make quorum.
”As long as I’ve been involved, it’s been difficult for the senate to do business because of lack of quorum,” Bufton said. “The last three meetings we’ve had, we’ve been able to meet quorum. This is the first in the last four that we haven’t been able to make quorum, sadly.”
”The people who are showing up are doing really great stuff,” Bufton added. “There are just a few people for whatever reason that are just keeping other people from doing even more of the great stuff they are already doing.”
There have been several changes and new appointments in the executive staff. Most recently a new webmaster, Sai Dhanraj, was appointed and Hannah Fischer became University Affairs director on Oct. 25. ASPSU is hiring for the position of administrative director now that Monique Peterson, who was formerly the administrative director, switched to work as the Communications Director when Destiny Wigner left the position.
Despite their difficulties in maintaining staff numbers, ASPSU is still doing well according to Bufton. He said one example of their success was the Monday night phone bank, during which they encouraged students to vote. “We shattered our goal of 400 contacts last night within three hours of the phone bank,” Bufton said.