Deprived of a vice president by the unexpected resignation of Molly Woon, ASPSU President Erin Devaney has nominated Sa’eed Haji to fill the post, a graduate student with a record of involvement in social issues.
“Under the constitution, the Senate has 30 days to approve or reject it,” Devaney said. If the Senate takes no action within that period, Haji automatically assumes the position. Devaney said she submitted the nomination on July 13. The Senate has been meeting on a varying schedule this summer.
Woon formally resigned as vice president the last week of June after she learned that her job as a research assistant in the political science department would conflict with her vice presidential position. Under human resources policy, a graduate assistant committed to work halftime may not hold another student job because of potential overstress.
Haji, a graduate student in conflict resolution, has compiled a record of campus activity and activism. He has worked at the Multicultural Center for four years and has sat on the student senate. A native of Somalia, Haji has been a coordinator of the Association of African Students, the student chapter of the NAACP and the Black Cultural Affairs Board.
Haji was elected to the Student Fee Committee in March as a member of the self-styled “progressive” electoral slate presented to student voters by the Devaney/Woon ticket. Every candidate associated with the slate won a seat.
“Haji is capable of fulfilling many of our goals,” Devaney said. “He represents a myriad of different parts of our school. He is a father, a grad student and an international student. He works at the Multicultural Center. He is a member of a number of communities we want to reach out to. We have the same ideology.”
Devaney’s letter of nomination stated that she had spent a great deal of time in search of a new vice president among a number of candidates. She called the appointment of Haji “the best and also the most difficult decision that I have had to make.” The letter called him “a forerunner in progressive campus politics.”
Her letter also said that graduate students are severely underrepresented in ASPSU, with only two currently involved. She stressed Haji’s importance to diversity in student government.
“I believe that almost everyone who ran for Senate ran under the concept of making ASPSU more representative of PSU’s diverse student population. Appointing Sa’eed will not achieve that goal, but I believe it to be a great start. I would think it is an honor to have Sa’eed representing this organization to the rest of PSU, as well as represent PSU to outside communities,” Devaney summarized.
In the spring of last year, Haji worked for the tenure track appointment of Ridwan Nytagodien as an associate professor in Black Studies. Haji argued that black studies had been successful in the previous six years due in large part to Nytagodien.
“He’s passionate about what he teaches – I wanted to leave PSU in 2002, but I stayed here because of Ridwan,” Haji said. Nytagodien is no longer at PSU.
In February 2004, Haji served as chair of Black Heritage Month at PSU. In 2003, he was one of only 10 PSU students given tickets to a speech by Angela Davis, a former member of the Black Panther Party, in an event sponsored by Reed College.
Devaney could not predict when the Senate might act on her nomination. If the Senate approves Haji, Devaney will nominate another student to fill Haji’s seat on the fee committee. Devaney said she is not yet thinking about whom she might nominate. Devaney said getting the new ASPSU leadership organized and running for the coming academic year has been a strain without a vice president. Under the ASPSU constitution, the vice president serves as presiding officer of the Senate. As a result, the Senate has met under pro tem chairmanship. In her letter of nomination, Devaney commended the Senate for being “committed and strong.” She noted that “this is the most the Senate has met Summer Term in years.”
Devaney said she finds it arduous to work on her administration’s program without the help of a vice president. One of her ambitions is to retrieve a record of many of the past actions of ASPSU leadership.
“It’s one of our goals,” she said. “So much gets lost over the years and it is so hard for us to get information on what has been done.” She has drafted Tony Rasmussen to create a web site that will retrieve this information and assemble it in one location.
Devaney could not predict when the Senate might act on her nomination. As for her administration generally, Devaney said, “We are still in the goal setting phase.”