Participation is key for Progressive candidates

In March of 2003, Courtney Morse was a high school junior in the small, rural town of Fond du Lac, Wis. The leadup to the war in Iraq was over and the bombing had begun. She had planned a demonstration against the war and said she was nervous and doubtful over how it would turn out. After over 200 students came to protest, Morse said she knew what she wanted to do with her life.

“I hopped on an Amtrak and came to Portland,” she said.

Morse, a freshman majoring in political science, is now running for student body president in next month’s election, with Jesse Bufton as her vice presidential running mate. They are focused on student involvement in student government through internships and concentrating on affordability, sustainability and diversity.

“Increasing the amount of people in ASPSU is so important,” said Bufton, a sophomore who has yet to declare a major. Recruitment for the internships is easy, he said, and would increase the visibility of what student government actually does. When asked if he and Morse planned to draft people into the internships, they said that many people want to get involved but simply do not know of the opportunity.

Morse said what is important is getting students to realize that issues in student government really affect them. That, and they can get credits for interning. “We’ll train future professionals to organize around an issue they care about,” she said. “How wonderful will that feel?”

As for keeping college affordable for students, Morse and Bufton stressed the importance of the relationship between student government and the Oregon Student Alliance, a statewide post-secondary student lobbying organization, to get the Oregon Opportunity Grant fully funded. It is currently only 70 percent funded.

The pair also said they would like to help students by increasing accessibility to student childcare.

Bufton said the university is doing some progressive action toward campus sustainability, but not enough. PSU is deficient when it comes to the “simple stuff,” Bufton said. Portland State should to continue to examine the paper and water consumption on campus, he said, and consider joining the Campus Climate Challenge, a long-term contest that engages colleges in the United States and Canada in an effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Lewis and Clark and Lane Community College, in Eugene, are the only two colleges in Oregon to have joined the competition.

“I’m an advocate for queer and religious studies,” Morse said. She said she would like the university to examine what resources and programs are offered for minority students. To them, Latino/Chicano, Native American and Asian studies majors would greatly benefit Portland State.

If PSU had these programs, she argued, enrollment would “skyrocket.” With the increase in students, and therefore an increase in received tuition, the school would bring in a great deal of money. This capital could then be used to attract more students, which in turn would bring in more money, and so on.

“This process,” Bufton said, “is very much a circle.”

Attracting more students is key to the future of PSU, they contended. They cited the decision to use outdated enrollment figures to disperse funds to state universities as motivation for this view. The decision was made by the state Legislature and accepted by the Board of Higher Education for the biennium ending in 2007. If elected, Morse and Bufton will be in office when the Legislature is working on the dispersal of state funds in the 2007-09 biennium. Their administration, they assured, would be prepared to deal with this issue.

As for working with the administration at PSU, they see the translation of student needs into “business solutions” as the most advantageous course. They plan to mix grassroots politics with economical solutions and make their ideas “compelling to the administration.”

The Bufton-Morse ticket is running on the Progressive slate. Morse pointed out that she did not run on the Devaney-Woon list of candidates last year, which was also progressive and swept last year’s election. However, she was appointed as a senator this year by that administration. Bufton won a seat in the senate.

“For two years, my priorities have been student groups,” Morse said. She has been a board chair in the state-level OSPIRG and sat on the publications board here at PSU. She resigned from the latter to avoid a conflict of interest. She has also run campaigns for the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness.

Bufton, a self-described nerd and computer geek, grew up in and around Portland. He said he thinks his late nights up with his computer exposed him to a lot of different viewpoints on the internet, giving him his current, progressive point of view. According to Morse, he is “an expert in the process and a leader in the senate.”

Morse and Bufton are young, but what they may lack in age, they make up for with passion and drive.

“I can throw a punch,” Morse said, “with eloquence, grace and maturity.”