Watari defeats incumbent by 52 votes

In a tight race for the student fee committee (SFC) chair, Friday, Erin Watari came out on top with 400 votes, compared to incumbent Tracy Earll’s 348. The results of the election may not be the final word, however.

The Evaluation and Constitutional Review Committee (E&CR) will be hearing concerns today about the process which got Watari onto the ballot in the first place and is expected to rule on its constitutionality.

After missing the application deadline, citing personal reasons, Watari expressed interest in the SFC chair position. Because she missed the deadline, the elections committee bylaws state that Watari would have been considered a write-in candidate.

Watari was originally listed in the voter’s guide with the other two candidates, Earll and William Emminger, but was removed after the elections committee received complaints. She was later added under the heading “Write-in Candidates.”

The concern, now, surrounds the committee’s decision to list Watari on the ballot at all, or without specifying that she was, indeed a write-in candidate. Napoleon Linardatos, editor of the Portland Spectator, has asked the E&CR to address this issue today.

Despite the controversy Watari, who was student body vice president and student fee committee vice chair at Southern Oregon University, is looking forward to her new position.

“I’m excited to reinvest in a community. The election and campaigning process made me really feel like part of a community,” she said.

A post-bac student applying for a Masters in Public Management, Watari has only been at Portland State since fall 2002.

“Yes, I am new to PSU, but my relationship with the school is longstanding,” Watari told us. Through her work with the Oregon Students of Color Coalition and Oregon Student Association, Watari has built connections and relationships at Portland State that she feels will be an asset as student fee committee chair.

Although the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group’s (OSPIRG) ballot measure asking students to overturn the SFC’s decision to reduce its funding passed, Watari is noncommittal about what action the new student fee committee will choose to or have to take on the issue.

Since budget allocations for next year have already concluded, in order to fund OSPIRG at the requested $120,000 in 2003-04, the SFC will have to either raise student fees an approximate $1.99 per term or reevaluate the budgets of other student groups to funnel money to the OSPIRG budget.

Since Earll’s term does not end until June 30, any change in next year’s allocations will probably be decided under her watch. If the issues surrounding OSPIRG’s funding persists into next year, Watari said the decision will not be hers alone.

“I’m asked to be a leader, but it is the committee as a whole that must make the decision,” she said.