ASPSU Children’s Center located in Smith Memorial Student Union. Alberto Alonso Pujazon Bogani/PSU Vanguard

ASPSU Children’s Center set to move locations

The change has sparked concerns among some parents and families

Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) Children’s Center will be moving into the Helen Gordon Child Development Center building come fall 2024. Jose Coll, Ph. D., interim dean of the College of Education, made the decision in response to campus-wide budget cuts due to low enrollment.


The move came to the attention of ASPSU Center families and staff by way of a premature announcement in the College of Education newsletter sent to faculty and staff the last week of February. The announcement detailed that the change of physical space would occur in spring of 2023. Families and staff at the center immediately expressed concern regarding the lack of involvement in the decision-making process, along with the short notice, drafting a petition which as of March 10 has received over 320 signatures from PSU staff, alumni and students.


Dr. Coll later followed up with an email detailing in more specificity the goals and desires behind the decision, along with an apology for the lack of transparency.


“It was an unfortunate miscommunication that, as dean, I take full responsibility,” Coll said. “In order to respond, like we did with our letter, it takes time to think about one: what are the concerns by our community, or the concerns of faculty and staff? What are the concerns of students?”


Dr. Coll, with assistance from Lynn Green, director of the Helen Gordon Center, pushed the move date back after staff and family concerns arose regarding the effects of a mid-school year disruption on the children. The move date for the ASPSU Center is now set for fall 2023, with the transition happening over the summer while kids are out of school.


The ASPSU Center is currently located in the Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) building. The Helen Gordon Center oversees the ASPSU Center, though each has their own program coordinator and operates with a different system. No changes will be made to the structure of the ASPSU Center’s program with the move, which will allow families to continue under the lower cost of the ASPSU Center and the open-door policy that welcomes parents to check-in and spend time with their kids throughout the day.


The relocation would move it inside the same building as its parent organization the Helen Gordon Center, which is six blocks east of SMSU, on the corner of Southwest 12th Avenue and Market Street.


“I made the decision based on the data that was collected by Lynn Green to help me process,” Dr. Coll said. “This is one of those moments that I had an opportunity to say, this is the best way for us to create sustainability. The best way for us to serve a larger community is by bringing these two units together, instead of continuing the kind of separation even though they’re within the same umbrella.”


For some, however, the change of location will make a difference. Adriana Garcia, a PSU Honors College student and mother of four with one kid at the ASPSU Center, said that moving locations will make an already tricky schedule increasingly difficult.


“It’s a big leap for me to be back in school again,” Garcia said. “I’m juggling one in college, one in high school, one in preschool, and, you know, without ASPSU in Smith—like, that’s the central location. I’m able to drop them off, I’m able to run to class. It’s just perfect.”


Martín Alberto Gonzalez, an assistant professor at PSU in Chicano Latino Studies, and his partner Jessica Ramirez, an adjunct professor in Social Work, take their daughter to the ASPSU Center. Gonzalez expressed concern over the structural differences in regards to race between the ASPSU Center and the Helen Gordon Center. He recalled first walking into the ASPSU Center and noticing right away that a majority of teachers were people of color, and feeling an overwhelming sense of support for his Chicana daughter to be there.


“How is it that an already marginalized center with predominantly teachers of color and students of color is further being marginalized?” Gonzalez said. “For us, that is a very important point of contention that hasn’t been taken into consideration. What happens when you put these teachers of color into a predominantly white space? If a space appears diverse, how does that space operate?”


Other parents expressed similar concerns, stating a conscious choice to join the ASPSU Center because of its racially affirming makeup. The Helen Gordon Center has a predominantly white staff, though its director Green has a background in diversity, receiving the President’s Diversity Award during the 2019–2020 academic year. Green did not respond to Portland State Vanguard in time for comments before the article’s publication date.


Green set up two Zoom meetings to discuss changes with ASPSU Center families and staff—though many were unable to attend because of conflicts in schedule and the times occuring during the center’s open hours. Families are currently working with staff to propose a selection of dates to Green for discussing the move that works with both family and staff schedules.


“This is the time for us in leadership and as a community, to make very difficult decisions and to be able to reshape the university to meet the needs of our students and our community at large,” Dr. Coll said.