Candidates face off at elections debates

The Elections Board held a series of public debates this week, allowing each ASPSU candidate an opportunity to discuss their campaign promises and the issues most relevant to Portland State students before today’s polling. The PSU Debate Team moderated all of the debates.

The Elections Board held a series of public debates this week, allowing each ASPSU candidate an opportunity to discuss their campaign promises and the issues most relevant to Portland State students before today’s polling. The PSU Debate Team moderated all of the debates.


Student body presidential, vice presidential debate:

A crowd of students was present to watch the five teams take the hot seat at Wednesday’s forum in Parkway North. While a series of questions was directed to the candidates, several key issues surfaced: tuition increases, ASPSU transparency and student unity.

Candidates responded to moderator-generated questions as well as questions posed by the audience. They were also afforded an opportunity at the end of the debate to present questions to one another.

At the beginning of the debate, the moderator asked the candidates to describe their specific campaign promises.

Presidential hopeful Rhezhna Rasheed and her running mate, Ammatulluh Hussein, said that they want to improve student advising on campus.

On a similar note, presidential candidate Jenny Myrick and her vice presidential running mate, Nathaniel Buckner, promised to enhance PSU’s career services by improving networking among advisers.

Later in the debate, Buckner also added that he and Myrick want to increase transparency and accountability in ASPSU. For instance, if elected, they plan to create a website that can show students exactly how their money is used within the university.

Next in the lineup was presidential candidate Ethan Allen Smith and his running mate, Anandi Hall. Smith stressed that ASPSU needs to improve its relationship with the university’s administration. 

“The administration will not listen to you if you’re constantly infighting,” he said. “There has to be somebody who can walk into that room with President [Wim] Wiewel, with his staff, with anybody in his administration and be able to hold a mature conversation and be able to say, ‘This is what the students need, this is what the students deserve.'”

In addition, Smith said that he and Hall promise to expand the university’s partnerships with the city so that internships are readily available to students.

Corrine Gilbertson, who is running for vice president with her running mate, Steve Taylor, discussed their desire to improve student government’s relationship with the Athletics Department. Gilbertson, a former athlete, said that many athletes are not aware of ASPSU, although they represent a large portion of the student population.

“We need a student government that represents all students,” she said.

Taylor also stressed that ASPSU needs to improve its communication with student groups so that it can better serve them.

“We believe that it is through this communication—through the dialogue and discourse—that we can bring ASPSU, the student body and Portland State University as a whole together, united for the students,” Taylor said.

Like Gilbertson and Taylor, presidential candidate Adam Rahmlow and his vice presidential running mate Pearce Whitehead said, if elected, they promise to better meet the needs of student groups.

In addition, Rahmlow discussed how he and Whitehead plan on reforming ASPSU so that the individual branches become more efficient in effecting change.

Another topic discussed was the proposed 9.2 percent tuition hike, to which all candidates expressed opposition and the desire to halt further tuition hikes.


Student Fee Committee debate

Drawing a small crowd of roughly 15 attendees, Monday’s Student Fee Committee debate moderators fielded questions that covered a wide variety of issues facing the group.

While eight candidates are running for a seat in the SFC, only one candidate—current member Mart Stewart-Smith—is running for SFC chair.

The SFC, tasked with the distribution of the student fee to campus groups and departments, is comprised of eight members, six of whom are elected. The other seats are designated to the chair and to a member chosen by the student body president.

This year, three returning members are running for re-election: Aaron Baker, Molly Shove and current SFC Chair Krystine McCants.

Throughout the debate a wide range of issues were addressed, including the SFC’s interaction with the administration, the $2 increase of the student fee in the coming school year and the Athletics Department funding, which will account for roughly 25 percent of student fees during the 2011–12 year.

Despite the low attendance, candidates demonstrated a convivial interest in the debates and were eager to field questions from audience members. The candidates also joked and exchanged friendly jabs with one another.

“I guarantee no new taxes or student fee increases unless it is justified, because I’m from a town called hope…and change,” SFC candidate Aaron Baker joked. Baker currently serves on the SFC.

Though a lighthearted attitude was clearly present in the air, in a moment of seriousness, McCants reminded both the candidates and the audience that the SFC is responsible for the nearly $14 million student fees on the cusp of a year facing substantial tuition hikes.


Student Senate debate

Just under half of the 20 senators running for a seat next year were at Tuesday’s Student Senate debate.

After the senators introduced themselves, they were asked various topics ranging from restructuring to the use of the student fee.

The moderator first asked the candidates what they believe are the most critical issues

affecting PSU.

“I think the first issue that is facing higher education, in general, is the increasing cost,” Senate hopeful W. Leaf Zuk said, adding that student activism is important to combat this issue. “We are seeing costs rise faster than the inflation rate, and the schools are having difficulty getting funding for education.”

Zuk added that ASPSU, alongside other schools in the Oregon University System, must lobby in Salem to keep costs low. Other Senate candidates echoed this sentiment. 

In addition, several candidates expressed the importance in reaching out to student groups on campus.

“We are the voice—or can be the voice—of whatever student groups want,” candidate Paul Polsin said, adding that most people on campus have not even heard about ASPSU.

Other issues discussed were restructuring, the campus’ environmental policies and how each candidate will improve outreach to their campus constituencies.

According to Elections Board Chair Ari Wubbold, 14 write-in canidates are expected. ?