On Jan. 27, the Associated Students of Portland State University senate met to deliberate on the approval of a new vice presidential candidate to fill the shoesof Yesenia Silva-Hernandez, who resigned due to personal reasons Jan. 1.
The candidate, Tia Gomez-Zeller, was approved with a vote of 16 in favor, none opposed and three abstaining.
Gomez-Zeller was one of three candidates who was in the running to be nominated for the position. She was given the final nomination by ASPSU President Harris Foster after hearing candidate statements, feedback from students and deliberation with Shaymaa Taha, ASPSU chief of staff, at an open forum held on Jan. 22 in Smith Memorial Student Union.
Applications for Silva-Hernandez’s position were accepted from those already employed in ASPSU. Foster
said in an interview that this decision was based on ASPSU’s “need for someone who [could] jump into the position.” Someone who had never worked in ASPSU, he said, would require too much training time.
The other two candidates were Steven Balogh and Linda Hoppes.
Foster said that the role of vice president is redefined every year, and that whomever assumes that role can take any direction. The forum on Jan. 22 provided a place to hear what the candidates planned to do if elected, as well as to find out what the students wanted to see done by them.
The candidates were questioned by Foster and Taha, prompting them to speak about their qualifications and why they wanted the position, what they hoped to do if elected, how they would represent the students and what they thought the role of vice president should be.
“I believe in ASPSU. I believe in student issues,” Balogh said.
He said that this is his “last chance to make a mark,” and listed some of his goals as vice president: to achieve cultural competency across PSU, instate an “effective [and] efficient student government,” build better relationships with unions and to be an “active voice in what happens on our campus.”
Gomez-Zeller voiced her goal of achieving and maintaining cultural competency as well. “We need to keep in mind and understand that PSU is really diverse,” she said. She stressed that this applies to everyone, adding that we “need to understand that [cultural competency] is not only about professors and faculty, [but] also about international and domestic students.”
“There is a voice missing in the governing body of the student government,” Hoppes said. “I want to continue to bring [that] voice to the table.” She said the position of vice president would allow her to grow, to be a leader within ASPSU internally and “a liaison between different groups across campus.”
After hearing the candidates’ responses to Foster and Taha’s questions, the floor was opened up to students.
“What [I] really care about when it comes to who has these positions [is] community involvement [on] campus,” said Phoenix Singer, equal rights advocacy director for ASPSU.
Erika Molina Rodriguez, academic affairs director, shared her thoughts about what qualities are important in a vice president. She said that the role should be taken by someone who is friendly and approachable to students and that it is important to ask, “what [have they] been working on this past year [and] how can their projects
With this input from students, alongside statements from the candidates about what vice presidency would mean for them, the decision for nomination was put in the hands of Foster.