Restarting ASPSU Elections: Presidential Candidate Rudy Soto

Rudy Soto says he thinks student government isn’t working at Portland State.

Rudy Soto says he thinks student government isn’t working at Portland State.

“There’s a huge amount of apathy on campus right now,” he said. “Students don’t pay attention or care about student government.”

Soto, along with running mate Brad Vehafric, is again running as a presidential candidate in the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) student elections.

The problem is that students do not see enough of what student government does and how it affects people, according to Soto.

“A lot of people would not disagree that student government was struggling this year, with committees not being filled, the senate not making quorum, and the arrests,” he said. “Our campaign is going to address issues to get the average student to pay attention instead of looking at broad goals.”

If elected, Soto and Vehafric said they intend on achieving these goals by focusing on real issues that students care about, such as increased bike security, cheaper TriMet fares for students, or 24-hour library access. They said they would also like to increase student awareness and participation in the student government process.

“I see a major disconnect between students and student government,” Vehafric said. “Most students have no idea what student government can do for them. These ideas are laying a groundwork that’s imperative as opposed to running an idea campaign.”

Soto said students do not have a place where they can voice their opinions. His solution? He would start public forums that allow students to ask questions and make comments concerning issues on campus, affecting the city or even nationally, to be held at least once a month.

“City officials could come and talk to students about the issues, things that student government could help sponsor or facilitate to help improve the community,” Soto said. “It would highlight issues on campus as well as in the city.”

By giving students an active role, Soto and Vehafric hope to see more involvement on campus as well as a greater local cultural integration for the university. Open dialogues have already been established with local organizations, Vehafric said.

Direct communication also plays a vital role with Soto and Vehafric’s smaller goals. They are concerned with student services on and around campus, dealing mostly with transportation issues.

The two would like to see increased bike security and parking awareness as well as a proposed all-student TriMet pass. The TriMet pass would add an extra $70 to university fees, but would decrease the current price of a pass by over half.

To increase bike security on campus, Soto and Vehafric are working with campus safety, university and community leaders to come up with a bike-lock exchange program as well as increased bike parking facilities. Awareness also comes into play, Soto said.

“The cycling club has done studies. People could go cut a bike lock and no one notices,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with awareness.”

This applies to the issues of automotive theft as well, Soto said.

“Maybe it’s just a matter of more signage in the parking structures,” he said. “Part of this process is coming up with creative solutions to deal with it.”

Soto would also like to implement 24-hour library access, a larger and better-staffed student tutoring center and an improved student health plan.

“The 24-hour library is one of our advocacy projects,” Vehafric said. “The resources are limited. Student fees can change that-we’re talking to the student fee committee and local labor unions about it.”

Soto said that it is a question of meeting basic student needs-while the library is currently open until midnight during finals, it closes at 11 p.m. the week before.

“It needs to be open later than 11 sometimes during the term,” he said. “A 24-hour library is the ultimate goal, but at minimum during midterms, the week before finals and dead week as a start.”

Soto is also working with the Center for Student Health and Counseling in an effort to provide better student health coverage if elected. Basic coverage is included with tuition for students who take nine credits or more. Students can purchase an extended coverage plan for an additional cost.

“We’re working to create a more affordable student health plan,” he said. “Basic doesn’t do much, and extended coverage is expensive. Between extremes there should be a more affordable option for students.”

Overall, Soto and Vehafric said they want their campaign to make student government relevant to students again by connecting students, groups and departments. They said they want to change the way student government works for students.

“Everybody is supportive,” Soto said.