For the first time in several years, Portland State students have a real choice among candidates for the ASPSU presidential and vice presidential position. While all of the candidates vying for the leadership positions have positive platforms, prior ASPSU experience and varying levels of leadership ability, Amara Marino and Joe Johnson stand out above the crowd.
Marino, a junior in speech communication and political science, has been at PSU and active in our student government for nearly three years. Her service to this community has ranged from ASPSU intern and student senator to student fee committee (SFC) member and College Housing Northwest resident manager. Currently, Marino chairs the Evaluation and Constitutional Review Committee (E&CR) and sits on the SFC.
Johnson’s dedication to student government is also apparent. In his second year serving as a student senator, he has contributed greatly to the Outdoor Program, is the chair of the Student and Community Affairs Committee and was also a resident manager for two years.
Asked to enumerate their administrative goals for 2003-04, Marino and Johnson told us they are committed to continuing and expanding multicultural and diversity work on campus, including pursuing the possibility of establishing disabilities studies at PSU and helping to implement the newly approved black studies major.
One of the most interesting initiatives the pair discussed is securing student representation within the university administration, which would, in theory, guarantee student voice and input on major administrative decisions, such as the recent decision to raise the minimum entering GPA from 2.5 to 3.0.
Marino is currently interning in Salem for an Oregon state representative, giving her invaluable experience with the state legislative system and important contacts in state government. In addition, this experience is lending to a better understanding of the state budget, which will be imperative if her administration intends to fight further tuition surcharges or increases.
Johnson, a member or Air Force ROTC, has a well-developed understanding of the student senate, which he will need when he begins to preside over the senate. His experiences in the senate, the ROTC, and as a student coordinator for the Outdoor Program and a resident manager have all enabled him to become a fair-minded leader. Johnson is goal oriented and well equipped to manage the senate.
One of the issues we have seen in the ASPSU executive office this year is a lack of connection and communication, not just between the three branches of government, but within the administration itself.
As chair of the E&CR, senator and SFC member, Marino has been exposed to many different personality types – many of them strong and contentious. Although her quiet demeanor may force her to work harder or find unique approaches, Marino has the knowledge and experience to lead. More than that, however, she has respect. In every interaction with the Vanguard or its members, Marino and Johnson have truly demonstrated respect for individuals, for the organization as a whole and for the student body.
In addition, their combined experience and expertise will lend itself to solving continuing problems that will carry over from the current administration to the next, such as the issue of referendum use to distribute student fees and poor student representation at all-university committees.
Finally, the current administration, with the resignation of Vice President Dune Zhu, has taught us the dangers of electing a president and vice president who do not know each other well and do not have positive modes of communication. Marino and Johnson have known each other for nearly three years, working together at College Housing Northwest and in ASPSU. Despite some philosophical and political differences, the two are clearly capable of working together to represent the interests of the student body and leaving their respective agendas behind.
With such experience with and knowledge of our student government, a strong working relationship and a demonstrated work ethic, we are confident that Marino and Johnson are the best choice to lead Portland State next year.