Sitting down with student government

    After a busy summer student body President Courtney Morse and student body Vice President Jesse Bufton said they feel ready to start the school with a full agenda of meetings, events and plans to take Portland State in a direction they feel it needs to go.

    Morse and Bufton’s goals for this year include increasing diversity studies on campus, promoting sustainability and making tuition more affordable for students.

    September, they said, will be full of events designed to get new and returning students involved in school-related issues. Morse said she is very excited about the fall, which she said will be “super active and super intense.”

    Morse and Bufton have been in office for only three months, but Morse said it feels like a whole year. Both she and Bufton said they have accomplished quite a bit this summer, but that this school year will be where they use the full potential of their offices.

    On Sept. 22, the student government, Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU), will be hosting a candlelight dinner to promote diversity issues on campus. One hundred people are expected to attend the dinner, including PSU President Daniel Bernstine, a representative from the governor’s office and many other local members of the community.

    Morse and Bufton’s goal is to start Portland State on a path to eventually adopting a queer studies major, as well as a major in religious studies. “We are a truly diverse campus, but we don’t have the programs,” Morse said.

    Bufton said that the issue of diversity will take up a lot of ASPSU’s time this year.

    ”We love all our platform issues equally,” Bufton said, “but we are devoting a lot of time to this.”

    Morse and Bufton both said that developing new major programs will take much longer than the time they have in office. They estimate it could take as much as five to 10 years for any change to come into effect.

    ”We know it’s a long-term effort,” Morse said.

    Bufton said that the groundwork they lay this year will make it so the issue does not disappear when they leave office.

    ”We haven’t been going around promising it’s something we will have next year,” Bufton said. “It doesn’t mean we are any less dedicated to it.”

    Another major issue student government will focus on this year is affordable tuition. Morse said they are working with the Oregon Student Association to lobby tuition issues to the Oregon Legislature.

    Morse and Bufton said they have met with over 50 legislators this summer to ask for an extra $188 million over the allotted budget for higher education. This extra money will help to keep tuition costs down so that they are in line with the median family income.

    Morse said that some of the extra money will also go to increasing faculty pay, an issue she said is very important. Their proposal is currently being considered, according to Morse. To bring the issue to the forefront, Morse said they are planning mock funerals to be held around the state for the “death of higher education.”

    Currently Oregon ranks 46th in the nation for funding of it’s universities. Portland State houses 33 percent of Oregon’s university students, but only receives 25 percent of state higher education funds.

    Morse and Bufton hope to get 3,500 students to register to vote this fall. They will be hosting “The Big Feed” on Sept. 18, where they will feed over 800 newly registered students.

    Bufton said that this year will be packed with work for everyone involved in ASPSU, but he said it will be manageable.

    ”Everyone knows this will be a huge year and will require a huge amount of effort,” Bufton said. “But everyone in the office needs a little bit of a vacation before we start fall term.”

    Morse said that if this summer is an indicator then this year will be great for ASPSU.

    ”The amount of work we’ve got down is way easier than we thought,” she said. “We have such a great dynamic.”

    Morse and Bufton both became interested in politics in high school, and both mention the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and it’s aftermath as a focal point for their early interest in national and international affairs.

    Morse, originally from a conservative rural town in Wisconsin, organized a protest against the Iraq war at her high school that drew hundreds of participators and many threats from angry citizens. She became interested in grassroots activism, and became even more passionate when she served as a freshman senator at PSU in the 2005-2006 school year.

    Bufton, who got involved with the College Democrats his freshman year, is now in his third year at PSU. Last year he served on a senate chair of the Student Affairs Committee. He is preparing for the upcoming election in November by prepping a series of forums to be held on a number of important ballot measures. He, like Morse, had his passion for politics grow after coming to Portland State.

    They said ASPSU will communicate their goals for this year through use of the media, and the creation of pamphlets that they will be handing out in the Park Blocks during the first week of school.

“Students who are really interested can see all our platforms,” Morse said. “It holds us really accountable to our goals.”