If you believe that Portland State is already an overgrown community college, then the recently announced Portland Area Higher Education Consortium shouldn’t bother you. Administrators say the consortium, a coalition of four local community colleges and PSU that will allow students simultaneous enrollment at all five institutions, is simply a reaction to already existing trends.
However, Portland State isn’t an overgrown community college. It’s a four-year university that has continued to reveal its true stripes as a commuter college with a desolate student life that would rather build pretty buildings and acquire property than bother to keep the library open 24 hours a day.
The consortium is just another piece in a growing puzzle of hypocrisy that reflects the dubious decisions PSU administrators have made in recent years. Why build the Broadway Building only to cripple the Residence Life program with massive budget cuts just two years later? The message the administration is sending to students who live on campus is clear: we don’t care about you.
Administrators have pledged their commitment to fostering campus community on numerous occasions, yet their actions continue to work against that goal.
There is another dangerous message being sent to those responsible for educating PSU students. Portland State instructors are among the lowest paid in the nation and the university has a history of losing top professors to schools that offer significantly higher wages. There are few incentives for elite educators to choose to teach at PSU, while there are plenty of reasons to look elsewhere.
With dwindling numbers of tenured faculty and an increasing reliance on temporary adjunct professors, PSU is doing little to distinguish itself from the community colleges it is now allied with.
What is stopping students from taking the majority of their classes at the four community colleges, only to take a handful of classes at PSU so they can graduate with a four-year degree? If Portland State administrators are truly dedicated to fostering campus life and offering a great education, they must spend the resources to demonstrate their intent.
After the latest round of budget cuts, it is easy to say there is simply not enough money, not enough to keep the library open at all hours, not enough for ResLife and certainly not enough for our teachers. However, it is unacceptable to resign ourselves to mediocrity. Administrators need to focus on proving they are invested in the student experience at PSU, not just the bottom line.
Without good teachers, without a vibrant campus life and without the resources to allow students to succeed, PSU doesn’t seem to offer much more than a community college, except a four-year degree. In short, what’s left that makes this place special?