Associated Students of Portland State University presidential and vice presidential candidates met on April 7 in Parkway North for a debate before the student government elections.
Due to conflicting schedules, Dr. Khalid Alballaa and Linda Hoppes from the Students for Affordable Education slate did not attend.
Tony Funchess and Kaitlyn Verret of Stand Up, Speak Out, Stand Together instead answered questions from a Student Media panel. Students and audience members were encouraged to ask questions as well.
Mike Sundberg, part of the Elections Committee, moderated the debate.
Funchess and Verret addressed why they are running.
“I’m running because I think it’s time for students to have the opportunity to step up and be involved in student government,” Funchess said. “Not often are all students included in that process…We are looking to be a more inclusive space.”
Verret said, “We definitely want everyone’s voice to be heard, more people engaged and to all work together as a community.”
“We need students to show up. We need students to vote, to participate,” Funchess said. “We need students to say what they care about so we can advance those issues.
Verret proposed creating more events on campus that would get students excited, citing PSU as a nontraditional and commuter college. She also proposed the idea of the ASPSU office becoming a welcoming space for students.
“Let ASPSU become like a home to students,” she said. “We are here to listen to them and to make them feel comfortable…Our slate is such a diverse group that students will feel welcomed to talk to anybody.”
Funchess advocated for student inclusivity and cultural competency. He said many of the cultural centers, are underutilized resources.
“If you want to include folks you have to make them feel more welcomed, and a lot of students don’t feel welcomed here,” Funchess said. “Until we really become committed to the work of cultural competency that transforms the culture, the community and the climate here, then we will continue to struggle.”
Verret continued, “Underrepresented and marginalized groups involved…often feel that they do not have a voice. Communities of color are often those who are doing the work and are passionate [about] their work, so I love that ASPSU works with cultural centers and being able to engage those students.”
Verret said she would like to see an oversight board including students that campus public safety officers would report to. She said this could benefit sexual assault survivors.
“It’s not easy for people to go to [CPS] officers, so I would like to have a group of people, maybe survivors themselves, people that are interested in the work, that someone can go report to and have help and support to move forward,” she said.
In a survey conducted in the 2013–14 academic year, 60 percent of students said they dealt with food insecurity.
Funchess advocated to expand hours of the Food Pantry and utilize other resources.
“We need to branch out, build partnerships,” Funchess said. “We need to identify ways to make healthy, sustainable foods and a more realistic option here on campus.”
Funchess also addressed student parents struggling with childcare costs.
“I am going to continue to advocate to the state to invest in the [Employment Related Daycare Program] so that there is money set aside for students to access for childcare,” he said.
Funchess said he wants to continue the work on divestment that ASPSU has already done.
“We are going to do a ‘Yes We Can’ campaign,” he continued. “Tons of bottles end up in the garbage, and we can very well take that, recycle that, and turn that money into a resource for the purchase and training of an aid animal for the Disability Resource Center.”
“I think when people go about social justice work and being change-makers, we have this grandiose idea that it needs to be the whole campus, or a huge number, and I think success is as small as helping one person,” Verret said. “That one person can come in and be heard. that, in turn, creates a bigger group of students that you impact because more people will see that one example, and they can feel like they can come and be listened to, find solutions and strategize with people.”