After a prolonged and contentious election cycle, the arrest of an elections board member and a rash of student criticism of the administration, new student body president Rudy Soto said he wants to clean up the reputation of ASPSU. Soto’s first plan of action? A $8,336 facelift for the offices of the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU)–a sum that includes over $2,000 for office furniture and nearly $4,000 in electronics.
After a prolonged and contentious election cycle, the arrest of an elections board member and a rash of student criticism of the administration, new student body president Rudy Soto said he wants to clean up the reputation of ASPSU.
Soto’s first plan of action? A $8,336 facelift for the offices of the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU)–a sum that includes over $2,000 for office furniture and nearly $4,000 in electronics.
“The students, staff and faculty kind of have a negative perception of student government,” Soto said. “And so we had some serious conversation about ways in which we can bolster the image.”
The budget includes $1,179.98 for a new couch and loveseat, $1,999 for a laptop computer, and almost $900 for a computer projector. Around $1,200 will go toward office supplies such as pens, staplers and pushpins, while another $1,500 will be spent on ASPSU-branded clothing. The office and conference rooms have also been painted.
Soto said he inherited an office that was extremely dirty.
“The couches were completely ruined. Just overall the whole feel of the office was just extremely dirty and disorganized,” said Soto. “We even found underwear in one of the drawers.”
Some students have complained that $8,000 is a hefty sum for an office makeover. Soto said spending the money is necessary to present a more mature and professional ASPSU to students this year.
“None of this is extra or wasteful spending,” Soto said. “If anything I would say if anyone had seen the office before this, it was badly needed.”
Soto said he would have liked to buy office furniture second hand, but requirements at Portland State make it difficult to buy items used. PSU has preferred vendors, such as Office Depot and Costco, who offer discounts between 3 and 10 percent.
“Basically, to go outside of these is really difficult,” Soto said. Because of state safety requirements, furniture purchased with state funds requires a manufacturer warranty.
The laptop and projector, he said, will be used mainly for minute-taking at meetings and will allow all notes to be kept in a central area. “Every meeting [last year] we would start late because we would have to find these tools or resources,” Soto said.
The funds for the facelift came from a $10,000 reserve request made June 15. On June 1, the end of the university’s fiscal year, it was discovered that last year’s administration had overspent their budget by $11,362 on two unplanned events, according to the reserve request.
Former student body president Courtney Morse said that the overspending came mostly from little expenditures that added up.
“Nothing really specific put us in the hole,” she said. “We spend a lot of money on travel. I just know that all of the sudden Natalie Webb was like, ‘Hey, you’re out of money.'”
Soto originally asked the student fee committee for $5,600 to pay staff for the month of June, but said he ultimately decided not to pay certain staff that had not worked the whole month. Another $1,500 will be used to pay the stipends of the executive staff for the month of June.
“We decided we could invest more in student government and the office and that whole reshaping, based on being able to do what’s right and not pay people for the time they didn’t work,” Soto said.
The student fee committee is charged with allocating over $12 million to over 100 student groups each year. At any time during the year, student groups can request additional money from a reserve fund by submitting a request form.
Once the fee committee grants the funds, it is up to the discretion of the student group leader how the money is spent, according to Tonantzin Oceguera, director of Student Activities and Leaderships Progams (SALP), the body that oversees all student groups.
“There’s a potential for abuse,” Oceguera said. “In this case, I feel that it wasn’t.”
Although there is not a guideline that specifically restricts the way money can be spent, she said, advisers try to work with student leaders to make responsible financial decisions. SALP advisers, SALP’s accounting office and the Portland State business affairs office must approve student group expenditures before funds are allocated.