Student government works for you

Student government is nothing if not active at Portland State. After spending three weeks in a baffling game of phone tag, I finally had the chance to meet Mary Cunningham, President of the Associated Students of Portland State University.

She penciled me in amidst an afternoon filled with meetings. In a surprisingly relaxed interview, I spoke with Cunningham and Vice President Emily Garrick about their offices and student government.

ASPSU is broken into four branches: the executive, with three elected and 10 hired positions; the legislative (or Student Senate), of 25 students; the judicial, of five students; and the seven member Student-Fee committee.

Last week, Sept. 6, ASPSU visited Salem on important business – tuition hikes. The Oregon University System’s Educational subcommittee requested a four percent and three percent raise in tuition for 2001 and 2002 respectively, and an additional $90 energy fee, which all four-year colleges except PSU and Southern Oregon University pay already.

Cunningham has been involved in our student government since starting at PSU. Though experienced with student government, having held the office of State Affairs Director twice, Cunningham is paid by monthly stipend. “If you’re poor you can’t run for office,” Cunningham said, comparing her $840 check to her hours at work. On at least one occasion, before taking office as president, she is said to have stayed at the office all night.

ASPSU’s Web site,, states that it “is a Student Fee-funded organization providing educational services and leadership opportunities to students interested in working for social and political justice for all.” Though accurate, this description is lacking any real content as the site is still under construction.

One of the many things we can thank ASPSU for is the library’s hours. After a two-year campaign, the hours were extended. A PSU student with ID you can use the library any time from 11 a.m. Sunday until 7 p.m. Friday. On Saturdays, the library opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m.