While most other Portland State University students are off enjoying their summer, President Kristin Wallace along with Vice President Dune Zhu work on their plans for the new school year. As the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU), Wallace and Zhu, spend their time serving their fellow students.
In Room 47 of the Smith Memorial Center, Wallace and Zhu, along with other officials they’ve appointed, initiate change in the school and beyond based on the wishes of their constituents.
“ASPSU is the voice of the students of Portland State,” Wallace said.
ASPSU has spearheaded a large amount of beneficial changes for students.
“I’m very proud of our past accomplishments,” Wallace said. “The change to 24-hour library hours was one change made by student government, as well as a two year moratorium on credit card vendors on the PSU campus.”
ASPSU is focusing on subjects such as making black studies a major at Portland State, voter registration, and collecting data from class evaluations.
“We are engaged in an aggressive youth vote campaign,” said Miriam Gonzales, ASPSU state affairs director. “Statistically those ages 18-30 turnout has been very poor for the May primaries. Average voter age was 62 for the 2002 May primaries.”
In 2000, the entire Oregon Student Association registered 27,500 people. The group is made up of many of the state’s major universities.
Portland State’s goal this summer was 350 registrations, and has exceeded that amount already.
“We travel all over for voter registration,” Gonzales said. “Typical places we can be found include the Park Blocks, classrooms, Pioneer Square, all over Hawthorne and 23rd streets. Concerts and events are also a good place.”
That isn’t to say ASPSU does all this alone. Many student organizations work together on voter registration, as well as on other projects.
“OSPIRG, the Queers and Allies student group, and all sorts of other student bodies are involved with the voter registration,” Gonzales added.
“Student voter registration is a primary concern,” Wallace said. “The more people we can get registered, the bigger voice our students will have on issues they care about.”
During its voter registration blitzes, ASPSU never pushes students to choose sides. They strive to remain neutral when it comes to party lines.
Zhu is focusing on making Black Studies a major here at PSU.
“Portland State has the most diverse university population in Oregon, yet we do not have a Black Studies major at all,” said Zhu. “We are trying to change that.”
ASPSU is not the only group involved. They are actively trying to get all student groups to help with the formation of a black studies major.
“We feel that it is important for freshmen to get especially involved with this, because if it does get voted in then it will go into effect their junior year,” Zhu said.
Black studies isn’t the only ethnic studies program to come into consideration. Options in both Native American studies and Chicano/Latino studies are being examined as well.
The final issue on the agenda is a new program being presented by ASPSU. They are working to institute a class evaluation program that is accessible to students. This will be used in what is being called the “Pick a Prof.” Program, which will allow incoming students to select their Freshman Inquiry professor based on the professor’s track record.
“We think the incoming freshman class will benefit from the ‘Pick a Prof.’ Program,” said Wallace. “Because the Freshman Inquiry sequence is an entire year long, it is important to make a wise decision. With this program, students will be able to look at professors backgrounds, past grades they’ve awarded and enrollment retention.”
Being an organization for students, ASPSU is constantly looking for the opinions of others.
“We are working on surveys that will allow the student body to say what campaigns they want priority on,” Adam Zavala, ASPSU communications director, said. “We will also have a free space on them for students to fill in additional comments or other campaigns they’d like to see that we have not covered.”
Although their positions may call for 16-20 hour weeks, it is not uncommon for ASPSU officers to put in 30 hours. Frequently, members must work on weekends as well.
There is an intern class for those interested in student government.
“The intern class for ASPSU is very rewarding,” Zhu said. “It’s a great learning experience.”
Wallace has one piece of advice for incoming students:
“Get involved,” she said. “ASPSU loves interns and volunteers. You’ll find that you make so many friends and learn so much by becoming more involved with your school.”