It is obvious Portland State’s last president was not right for PSU. A change was necessary, and now we are on the search for the next official to lead our university. What are we students going to get from this search and what is needed?
We need an ethical president who isn’t going to misuse the university’s money and mistreat others, one who isn’t like the predecessor of current PSU President Stephen Percy.
“The Oregon Government Ethics Commission has determined that Rahmat Shoureshi, former president of Portland State University, violated state ethics laws three times in his short stint leading the school,” wrote Jeff Manning of The Oregonian. “In July 2018, Shoureshi traveled to the Bohemian Grove campground in Northern California. He did so as the guest of noted local real estate investor Jordan Schnitzer. Shoureshi initially recorded his time as workdays. After The Oregonian/OregonLive filed a public records request seeking travel documents pertinent to the trip, Shoureshi asked his staff to revise his records to show personal vacation on those days.”
The article further reported how Shoureshi repeatedly put his own financial self-interest ahead of our university, treated staff unprofessionally, didn’t give sufficient consideration to the views of his executive leaders and caused many more problems for PSU. This is not what we want or need from our president.
One change, which will give us strong leadership and ensure that there is no abuse of power, would be giving more power to the students in the governance of our school. This has already been done and proven effective. At an Idaho high school, the student Shiva Rajbhandari, who was not of legal voting age, decided to run for a role on the Boise school board. As reported by The Guardian, the high school senior took on the 47-year-old incumbent and won.
In his time on the school board, Rajbhandari championed the issues of mental health and climate activism and provided a rare student voice to his school board. “I definitely did not expect I would be running for office at this age,” he said when questioned on this position. “But I just came to realize how important it was to try to establish a student voice on the school board. We don’t always get taken seriously as students. So then it’s on us to take that responsibility on, to fight for our futures.”
We at PSU should follow this example, because with more student influence our school will prosper, and we as students will get the policies and leadership we need to make our school the best it can be. With student leadership in an active role, our university can at last get a president who matches our values, listens to our needs and meets the challenges facing our school in ways that value us as the primary stakeholders of this institution. Direct engagement in how our school is run, from the top of leadership all the way down, will ensure a more democratic and equitable university and hopefully prevent abuses of power like those we have seen in the past.