Potential senators debate over pasta lunch

With 16 senate positions available, 4 candidates debate to show their worth

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Voting polls for 2017's Associated Students of Portland State are now open! Be sure to make your voice heard and vote today! Jake Johnson/PSU Vanguard

While there is always a lot going on in the lives of PSU students, four candidates made time to come to the ASPSU Senate Debate on Thursday, April 13, held in Smith Memorial Student Union room 294. After a tumultuous few months, the candidates expressed they were looking ahead to ASPSU’s future in the coming school year.

Of the four candidates in this year’s debate, three have experience in ASPSU. Zia Laboff is currently ASPSU president, Luis Balderas Villagrana is currently the senate chair, and Jocelyn Rodriguez is currently sustainability affairs director for ASPSU.

Sabrina Stitt does not have previous ASPSU experience but felt it was necessary to take a more active role on campus.

All four candidates are part of the Engage PSU slate, led by ASPSU presidential candidate Brent Finkbeiner and vice presidential candidate Donald Thompson III.

Remaining objective and seeking to represent all students

Villagrana expressed the belief that an important first step to being there for all students is just being available. One way Villagrana hopes to achieve this is through having open office hours. Villagrana feels it is not a very inviting indicator of ASPSU’s interest in your voice if you show up to the ASPSU office only to find the lights off and the door locked. Additionally, Villagrana asserts that you need to reach out.

“You actually have to talk to people,” Villagrana said. “You have to talk to the student leaders, you have to go to the international community and say, ‘What is PSU not doing for you and what are the ways we can help you?’”

Laboff feels that the common shared experience of being students is key for her in seeking to understand and appreciate different ideas.

“As a leader I think it’s very much important to encourage different forms of thought and not be impartial to them,” Laboff said. “It’s important to stay true to our experiences and the knowledge and the values that we hold, but at the same time it’s equally important to understand that everyone has different experiences and knowledge and values, and those are formed through life experience.”

“People come from different backgrounds,” Laboff continued. “Different environments produce different forms of thought, and it’s important to value all those equally since we are all working together as students.”

Grades as a barrier to participation

Currently, undergraduate students are required to have a 2.5 GPA and graduate students are required to have a 3.0 GPA in order to participate in ASPSU. Athletics programs have a 2.0 GPA requirement.

Villagrana remembers having bad grades in high school and thinking of going to college. He asserted that his grades did not define him and do not define others. He attends PSU and is involved in student government. Villegrana also fears that if he had listened to others, he would not have been able to be here today.

“You shouldn’t punish students for having hardships in your life,” Stitt said.

Rodriguez feels that one reason people can get poor grades at school is by being forced to take classes they have no passion for.

“If you’re not interested in it, you’re not gonna have a passion for it, and if you don’t have a passion for it, you’re not gonna get good grades,” Rodriguez said. “You’re also doing other jobs, or having children, or worrying about how you’re gonna get to school, or how you’re gonna eat, or how you’re gonna pay your bills. To me, I just don’t know how not getting enough A’s is going to relate to you being a good leader.”

Laboff expressed concern over the concept of a meritocracy that only values the voices it has deemed worthy through the achievement of a number. She feels that by creating this barrier to participation some of the diversity that PSU values is edged out, and students lose opportunities to represent themselves.

Election polling began Monday, April 17.

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