Associated Students of Portland State University Vice President Kaitlyn Verret resigned this evening, just one day after the resignation of Student-Body President Liela Forbes. Her resignation came during a Wednesday evening ASPSU Senate meeting in the Green Roots Cafe room.
Quorum at the meeting was reached at 5:13 p.m. after a slight delay, with some senators attending to other matters instead. A total of 13 senators were present at the time of quorum being called, with one senator arriving shortly thereafter.
For the first order of business, Verret announced two Student Fee Committee openings and two nominees stood for nomination. The first candidate was confirmed by a vote of 13-0-1. The second candidate was also confirmed by a vote of 13-0-1.
Verret calls tenure “honor and privilege”
Verret moved on to the final order of business, where she announced her resignation.
“As many of you know, Liela has resigned,” Verret explained. “If you know our story, we have both had a pretty hard time, from campaigning and all the things that happened to that, to succeeding academically term to term.”
Acknowledging the “honor and privilege” of having worked with former ASPSU President Forbes and calling them her “partner in crime,” Verret said that she and Forbes did some “pretty great things together” and had no regrets.
Moving to the process of succession, Verret stated she was being ousted from her position and that she won’t be appointing anyone, instead allowing the senate to appoint a successor.
“So at this point, usually, being interim president, I would be appointing a VP,” Verret explained. “But the gag is, I also am being ousted from my position.”
Verret wanted to ensure the process was “as democratic as it could be, considering certain publications want to talk about cronyism in question,” recalling a recent Vanguard story that Verret and others felt was unfair.
After urging her colleagues to “fight the good fight,” Verret recommended Zia Laboff for president before completing her resignation from the ASPSU Senate.
A point of order was raised concerning whether the full senate should be seated before taking nominations and voting on replacing the student body executives.
A motion was made and a vote for an emergency meeting at 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 10, 2017 was held. The motion passed 12-0-1.
Under current constitutional guidelines, Chief Justice of the Judicial Review Board Joshua Friedlein will hold the position of interim president until an appointment can be made.
Quorum was then lost at 5:41 p.m.
Constitution maintains order in period of dramatic change
According to Coordinator of Student Government Relations Candace Avalos, the process for replacing the ASPSU president can be done either by succession or by senate appointment.
“The president in general, they have the opportunity to fill vacancies,” Avalos explained. “The vice president takes office and then would fill that vacancy of vice president.”
The constitution also states, however, that the senate can fill the office. With Verret’s decision to not succeed Forbes and instead allow the senate to appoint a new president and vice president, the senate is tasked with filling the seat.
When asked about the potential for disruption, both personal and institutional, Avalos played down the risk.
“It’s pretty typical to have students make decisions to be or not be involved in things based on their personal lives,” Avalos said. “It’s pretty standard.”
When asked whether this was a big shake-up so close to the end of the term, Avalos was clear, saying at this point they were likely focusing on the election and what they would be leaving behind.
With current senate terms ending soon and student body election voting starting soon, Avalos does not expect there to be much in the way of interruptions to student government.
Verret cherishes the experience
“The whole thing’s been really rewarding,” Verret said. “I’ve been doing ASPSU for three years now. I’ve went from senator and director to VP, and I’ve failed along the way, but there’s been a lot of success, and it’s been a privilege.”
Verret pointed to structural barriers, but says there were no losses or regrets, saying there can be improvements and wants to see leadership become “more accessible,” fair and “worthy of us.”
Of future student leaders, Verret said many “become leaders because they see disparities within their communities and see how they’re being under-served or not served at all.” Verret then added, “That seems to be a narrative when we’ve interviewed in the past year: to better their communities, better their lives. I say just keep going. The fight is hard, but it’s worth it. Keep going.”
When asked if the whole experience has been a good one, Verret closed with a positive note.
“ASPSU, some wild stuff has happened, but it’s definitely been rewarding,” Verret said.
Still work to be done on involvement and accessibility
Legislative Director Phoenix Singer corroborated some of the issues with student involvement and access to leadership.
“Student involvement on campus ha[s] been heavily declining,” Singer said. “Less than 1 percent of people that are students are doing all of this, and less than 5 percent of them are voting.” Singer added that in 2012 around 10 percent of students voted.
“I feel this has been a really difficult year,” Singer said. “Members of ASPSU were harassed last year before the elections were undid by a lot of white nationalists—online anonymous sources, so I think that this has been kind of [a] draining last term, so it feels like things have also been slower. It has been harder to emotionally maintain your ability to balance work with school.”
When asked what they would say to students who would be discouraged by the turmoil in the ASPSU, Singer pointed to big institutional problems similar to those Verret identified.
“It’s emotionally devastating to see both of our leaders disappear, though I understand why they had to do it—and in the past I’ve thought about leaving as well,” Singer explained. “But I think this just isn’t a problem with ASPSU. We’re seeing SALP expand while the amount of money given to student orgs decreasing, and the amount of student orgs decreasing.”*
A special ASPSU Senate meeting has been called for 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 10. The Vanguard will bring you coverage from that meeting and any further developments.
*Editor’s Note: In reality, SALP’s budget went up .2 percent from Fiscal Year 2016 to FY17, and the number of student organizations from FY16 to FY17 increased by 10 percent. As a comparison, ASPSU’s budget between FY16 and FY17 went up 69 percent, though this increase translates to closer to 12 percent when taking into account budget changes from FY15 to FY17. This is in correlation to SALP’s overall budget growth over the same two years. ASPSU members are responsible for allocating the budgets funded to each student organization. SALP staff has no direct input on how these funds are allocated.