Student government eyes changes

Six possible amendments to the Associated Students of Portland State University constitution—ranging from using student building fee funds for a new student union to changing how students choose elected officers—were discussed by the ASPSU senate at a Friday meeting.

Six possible amendments to the Associated Students of Portland State University constitution—ranging from using student building fee funds for a new student union to changing how students choose elected officers—were discussed by the ASPSU senate at a Friday meeting.

Additionally, two new senators came on board to fill empty seats until the end of the term—sophmore Victoria Dinu and KPSU Station Manager Jay Turk.

The amendment discussion was led by Sean Green, a student fee committee member and senate chair.

Amendments to the ASPSU constitution can be created in two ways—senators can, with a two-thirds majority vote, put an amendment referendum on the ballot, or a student can put an amendment initiative on the ballot by gathering the signatures of at least 3 percent of the student body.

Before reaching the ballot, the judicial review board must validate the wording of all referendums and initiatives for objectivity.

A new—or improved—student union

Of the amendments the senate considered on Friday, one in particular could have the most effect on future Portland State students.

The amendment proposed that a portion of future student building fee funds be committed to the major renovation or complete reconstruction of Smith Memorial Student Union.

The $45 per term student building fee is used to fund capital projects on campus.

The amendment would commit 90 percent of future student building fees to fund the major renovation or construction of a new student union at PSU.

Green explained that, in the past, talk about a new student union led to a feasibility report that examined the current PSU student union—the Smith Memorial Student Union.

“The study looked at cost estimates, design ideas and more, and the findings were that SMSU is not up to par with other universities’ student unions,” Green said.

However, because of the project’s large price tag, Green said that momentum had slowed greatly.

This is what led to the idea for the amendment, he added, and cited the Stott Center remodel project, which also had a slow start until a sizable amount of funding was made available.

Instant runoff or plurality voting?

Another proposed amendment seeks to allow the judicial review board to recommend to the senate whether elections for vice president and president should be by plurality (winner takes all) or instant runoff voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

“I want to prevent future student governments from being locked into one process,” Green said. Currently, elections may only use the instant runoff voting system.

With the plurality system, the candidate with the largest number of votes is the winner, regardless of the margin by which they won.

Green said that in the future instant runoff voting could be very expensive, and this amendment would allow for more options.

In the case that the JRB recommends plurality to the senate and the system is approved, then the amendment would also allow for a primary race prior to the final election.

Judicial review board authority

Another amendment brought up the question of how much authority should be given to the JRB in cases in which a member or branch of ASPSU has violated a local, state or federal law that is also included in the ASPSU constitution.

While most senate members felt that it was appropriate that the JRB be able to rule on such cases, there was much discussion about whether the board could apply additional penalties.

“The judicial review board is losing its authority,” said Aubrey Hoffman, the board’s chief justice.

One suggestion made by other senate members was to allow the board to be able to make penalty recommendations rather than have the authority to enforce laws.

SFC selection process

Next, Green led a discussion about an amendment that would allow the ASPSU senate to appoint one of the eight total SFC members. The other seven members would be elected during annual elections.

Green said that in the past the senate has always appointed one of the eight members. This past year was the only one in which no members were appointed and all eight were elected.

This system would allow for a safety net, according to Nick Rowe, the current SFC chair.

“Not the smartest people are always elected,” Rowe said.

ASPSU President Tiffany Dollar also pointed out the opportunity in the option to appoint a SFC member.

“A lot of qualified people run at the elections,” Dollar said, “and when they aren’t elected, maybe they could be appointed to be a member of the student fee committee.”

Also proposed was an amendment that would mandate the involvement of the executive staff in the facilitation of ASPSU elections, which are currently organized in the most part by the JRB.

The last amendment discussed would change the end-of-term date of a JRB justice from April 30 to May 31 in order get all PSU officers on the same schedule.

Two new senators

Other business for the evening involved the senate’s unanimous acceptance of two nominations for ASPSU senators.

The first, Dinu, was described as “super-qualified” by members of the senate, and Hoffman, who recommended her nomination, said that Dinu is “very dynamic and would be a good asset.”

Turk’s nomination was also unanimously accepted. His work for PSU’s Rearguard and KPSU radio makes him a unique candidate, and he said that his goal was to help students and ASPSU communicate and connect more.

Turk said Monday that he didn’t feel there was a conflict of interest between his new duties as a senator and his work running KPSU. The station is an “entertainment medium,” he said, and news coverage isn’t a focus right now.

The station’s budget for next year has already been set, so any decisions the senate makes before the end of the term wouldn’t have direct financial impact on KPSU, he said.

Could news coverage play a bigger role on the station’s agenda while Turk is filling both positions?

“Theoretically, it’s possible. But I have no desire to do that. No plans to do that,” Turk said. “I won’t do that.”

The senate is scheduled to discuss and vote on the amendments at a Wednesday meeting at 5 p.m.