Lew Church, a longtime student and coordinator of the Progressive Student Union, has been informed by administrators that he can no longer request or sign for student funds, effectively banning him from acting as a student leader.
According to a memo from Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP) director Tonantzin Oceguera dated Feb. 7, Church was found in violation of SALP and university policy and is “no longer eligible to be a requestor or signer of funds belonging to student organizations.”
SALP advisor Natalie Webb called the decision a “private matter” and declined to comment about why the decision was made. Lew Church was unavailable for comment at press time.
Church, who also serves as a student senator, has been involved in two separate incidents involving student leaders over the last two days, one resulting in damage to the ASPSU office.
Those who work with Church said they are concerned about his behavior and job performance. “He’s alienating everyone who can help him,” said Jessica Lyness, student government communications director. “He is completely ineffectual when it comes to representing the issues he cares about.”
Church first became agitated after a Judicial Board meeting Tuesday that would decide whether he would be allowed to remain a senator. Student government president Erin Devaney submitted the request for review after learning that records showed Church wasn’t enrolled in enough credits to serve as a senator.
Church was unable to provide sufficient evidence to the Judicial Board that he had met this requirement, but due to time constraints the matter was tabled, delaying a decision until next week. Church was assured that if he could provide evidence of his enrollment he would retain his senate seat.
After the meeting Church confronted Judicial Board Chief Justice Kenneth Godfrey in the ASPSU office.
According to Godfrey, Church kneeled down next to Godfrey’s desk and proceeded to make repeated personal attacks against Godfrey.
“I thought that it was completely inappropriate considering I have always considered myself one of his firmest supporters and sympathizers,” Godfrey said. “I was shocked that he would make it personal.”
When Church refused to discontinue his attacks and questioned Godfrey’s loyalty to the student government, Godfrey asked him to stop.
“I said, ‘Don’t make this personal, Lew,'” Godfrey said. “And he said he was going to make it personal. I realized that he was going to follow me right out of the office. He was right on my heels.”
Church reportedly continued to bully Godfrey, who said he began to feel physically threatened and picked up a recycling can lid.
“I’ve never hurt anybody in my life,” Godfrey said. “I’ve never hit anybody and I’ve never shed anybody’s blood. Without even really realizing it I reared back and threw [the lid] over his head.”
The lid hit and damaged a ceiling light fixture before bouncing near the feet of student senator Courtney Morse, who was at another computer in the office.
“Kenneth has already sent me a written testimony, and I’m talking to Lew to get the same thing,” Devaney said. “We’ll get third party mediation to resolve this conflict. I don’t think it’s ASPSU’s role to be the disciplinary body.”
Devaney said that the damage to the light fixture and ceiling would need to be paid for, adding that her first priority is to ensure the safety and comfort of those who work in the ASPSU office.
In a separate incident the following morning, Church became disruptive during a Speakers Board committee meeting in which he was presenting a proposal for funds to bring speakers to PSU. The board is responsible for allocating up to $3,000 per proposal to bring speakers to PSU.
Webb informed the Speakers board of Oceguera’s memo, and the board ruled that Church’s name must be stricken from the proposals he had submitted, one which requested $1,500 to bring Jan Lundberg to speak as the keynote speaker at Portland State’s conference on Oil, Globalization and War.
“We were in the middle of talking about one of the proposals when he started yelling,” Lyness said, who sits on the board as a student representative. “He was really aggravated and it was really upsetting. He was acting hostile, he was saying he has a lawyer and he’s going to bring in a lawyer against us.”
The board tabled both requests, delaying a decision by a week. Lyness stressed that the board was following policy and had reached no decision on whether to grant the money or not. The meeting ended without further incident.