Student government assesses progress

Now in their second term, the Associate Students of Portland State University are working on several issues raised in their platform from last spring’s election. But just how much have they accomplished, and what is still left to do?

Now in their second term, the Associate Students of Portland State University are working on several issues raised in their platform from last spring’s election. But just how much have they accomplished, and what is still left to do?

The Vanguard sat down with student body president Hannah Fisher and asked her to grade her administration’s performance so far on delivering on its campaign promises.

SALP reform: A-
Funding for the Student Activities and Leadership Programs, which serves as an umbrella organization for nearly all student groups on campus, was put into reserve, awaiting a report from a task force set up to investigate ways that SALP can be more accountable, as well as to streamline the processes they use.

The reform became necessary after several student complaints, Fisher said. “SALP hasn’t been serving the needs of the students,” she said. “We’ve [ASPSU] helped create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable standing up for their groups and discussing their problems with SALP.”

Disabilities Studies minor: B
Under the leadership of Debra Porta, an equal rights advocate, ASPSU has put together a team to facilitate adding a disabilities minor to the College of Liberal Arts curriculum. The team, consisting of PSU professor David Holloway and various community disability activists, has met six times so far.

“We hit a few roadblocks and could have prepared more for this over the summer,” Fisher said. “Still, there’s more momentum behind this issue than any other.”

The next steps in the process, she said, include finalizing the program design and meeting with various committees and the Faculty Senate. If the lengthy process of approving the minor is successful, it won’t become part of the regular curriculum until fall or winter of the 2009 school year.

Advocacy for students at state capitol: A+
Among ASPSU’s goals is attempting to spend as much time as possible at the state capital in Salem, lobbying to increase students’ financial aid under the currently under-funded Oregon Opportunity Grant.

ASPSU is already well known at the capitol—the voter registration drive they coordinated last fall in cooperation with the Oregon Student Association registered 4,089 students to vote. As part of their duties leading the student advocacy movement, Zach Martinson and Collin LaVallee, ASPSU’s state and federal affairs directors, are collecting stories from students who are directly affected by student financial aid funding.

The goal is to collect 800 stories from individual students, and to hopefully bring at least 100 of those students to Salem to personally lobby their elected representatives.

Housing: C+
With PSU President Wim Wiewel’s announced plan to add hundreds of beds to current low-income housing for students, ASPSU is working with the university to reserve a “reasonable percentage” of new houses close to campus to be set-aside for low-income students.

“We weren’t aware of the 8-credit rule,” said Fisher, referring to an Oregon law that prohibits students from taking more than 8 credits if they occupy low-income housing.

“Instead, we’re going to imitate what other universities have done and guarantee a percentage of housing to low-income students.”

If ASPSU’s plans go through, all negotiations would be internal to the university, Fisher said. With that goal in mind, ASPSU will be meeting with Mark Gregory, PSU’s associate vice president, along with the university’s strategic planning firm in January in an attempt to move plans forward and discuss possible outcomes.

Senate Reform: A+
Under the leadership of Vice President Kyle Cady, student senators now get paid a stipend for their time served. As a result of this, there is now a waiting list of would-be senators. “Last year the Senate didn’t even have a quorum,” said Fisher.

Cultural Competency: A-
A major part of the campaign platform last year, the proposed cultural competency training for PSU faculty and staff was the subject of a debate last fall with an international debate team, Fisher said.

Porta and Ebony Smith, multicultural affairs director, have overseen the administering of that training admirably, she said. ASPSU’s executive staff, the senate and the SFC attended social justice training in November, and the executives have diversity training scheduled for January with the Diversity Action Council at PSU.

Of the 3500 faculty and staff employed at PSU, 1000 have already been through cultural competency training, including 65 percent of management and 95 percent of non-management personnel. There were five trainings scheduled through the end of 2008, and five more are scheduled for 2009.

All in all, Fisher expressed satisfaction at the work done so far and expressed gratitude for the people she works with.

“85 percent of my job isn’t based on campaign promises, it’s based on students coming to me, asking for help,” she said. “I wish campaigns could be run on integrity, rather than promises … At the end of the day, the only thing we get out of this is making the university a better place. A year’s not enough to get everything done.”