With ASPSU elections less then two months away, two students are considering vying for student body president. Patrick Beisell, current state affairs director for the Associated Students of Portland State University, and Rudy Soto, a Student Fee Committee (SFC) member, plan to fill out official forms of candidacy next month.
With ASPSU elections less then two months away, two students are considering vying for student body president.
Patrick Beisell, current state affairs director for the Associated Students of Portland State University, and Rudy Soto, a Student Fee Committee (SFC) member, plan to fill out official forms of candidacy next month. Presentation of their candidacy to the student government elections board is tentatively due Feb. 14, depending on whether the election board can meet quorum. Elections will be held March 5-9.
Both candidates align themselves with the progressive mentality, but Beisell and Soto say they are wary of classifying their campaigns in that way. Soto said that if he were elected, he would fill his administration with a diverse group of voices representing the diverse population of PSU.
“We have specifically chosen to run as a team and to not run as a progressive slate or something,” Soto said. “It’s really important to us to not have student government represent one ideology and one office. Although I am progressive and people could identify us as progressive, we are supposed to serve all students.”
Beisell, a sophomore, has served as a freshman senator and Judicial Board senate liaison, before his current position as state affairs director. He has been working on his campaign since spring and, if he does run for ASPSU president, he will have Federal Affairs Director Johnnie Ozimkowski run as his vice president.
Being involved with the last two student government administrations has prepared him for the duties of the presidency, Beisell said.
“I’ve been able to watch how things have failed and how things have gone well,” he said.
The current administration, Beisell said, focuses too much time on discussing broad ideas-like holding a funeral for the “death” of higher education-and not enough on enacting change that students can see. Instead of running on broad issues, such as sustainability, affordability and diversity, like the current administration, Beisell is aiming to narrow the focus and concentrate on the students at Portland State.
Beisell said his platform issues are still being formed, but said students he has talked to want ASPSU to continue to work on sustainability, the affordability of tuition, and pushing for more acceptance of diversity.
The issue of diversity is important to focus on, Beisell said, but he said there is still a lot of stigma bred into it, even though PSU claims to be a diverse school. Beisell said he would decrease discrimination on campus by increasing publicity and attendance at cultural events.
Soto, a junior, said he had never thought of running for president until last month, when friends, family and coworkers recommended the idea to him. He served as an ASPSU intern last year before becoming a member of the SFC this year.
Soto said he sees Beisell as the incumbent representing the current ASPSU administration, while Soto said he represents a change. He said his perceived lack of political experience, compared to Beisell, is not accurate.
Most of his experience, Soto said, is from working with student groups and his three years at PSU. His possible running mate, Brad Vehafric, has not been involved with ASPSU and his experience comes from participating in community organizations in Portland, such as Sisters of the Road.
“I would look at it in the sense that I have a variety of experience,” Soto said. “My experience comes from not being involved as a student.”
Soto said that if he runs, he would run his campaign according to the acronym REAL, which stands for reliable, engaged, approachable leaders. Although Soto was apprehensive to speak in depth about his possible campaign, he said accessibility is lacking in the current administration. “Students feel a disconnect between themselves and student government,” Soto said, because they do not see any results coming from ASPSU.
“I guess to be pretty straight up about it is there’s a lot of people that don’t feel a [connection] to student government as it works right now,” Soto said. “People don’t really feel that they are affected by what [student government] is doing. People don’t really see any tangible results.”
Sustainability, affordability and diversity are loaded words and have immeasurable results, Soto said. He said his campaign would be based on three major issues: awareness, accountability and accessibility.
“Maybe student government can be the way that students network between student groups and departments and organizations and bring together a point of information when it comes to events, activities and issues,” Soto said.
What a former candidate says
The success of Soto’s and Beisell’s campaigns will come down to their realization that ASPSU needs to focus on what students need, said Ryan Klute, former student body vice president, who lost his 2006 ASPSU presidential campaign to Courtney Morse. Klute, who said he lost his campaign because of an unwillingness to use buzzwords like diversity and sustainability, said he is worried that Beisell’s and Soto’s messages of narrowing ASPSU’s focus will not come true once they get into office.
“I agree with those things and I feel strongly about them,” Klute said. “[But it’s] silly, na’ve and foolish to think you can go in and change the world.”
The goal should be to “make people’s lives a little better here,” Klute said. “That’s what I’m looking for in these candidates.”
Of the large issues, like discrimination on campus, Klute said it is important to keep them in the front. Symbolic events, like the death of higher education, are OK in moderation, he said.
“That should be one-tenth of the energy you put into fixing the problems that affect students,” Klute said.
Klute said he is worried that any ideas the potential candidates have about running a different sort of campaign-focusing more on helping the immediate concerns of students-will be lost when Soto and Beisell realize that buzzwords can sometimes swing elections.
“I’d love the candidates to take the election seriously, in a way of ‘let’s be realistic in our goals,'” Klute said. “I really want them to have concrete plans and not pander to sound bites. I think that the sullen student stomping her foot in the Park Blocks is no longer an effective leader on campus.”
Klute said he will buy the potential candidates a drink if either actually ends up offering real solutions for daily problems facing PSU students.
“I would love the candidates to take that approach,” Klute said. “I would also love to be a size four, so I’m not holding my breath.”