In an attempt to alleviate the life-upending disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Associated Students of Portland State University passed a resolution advocating for in-person commencement and created an ad hoc committee for student financial relief on April 13.
Kyle Leslie-Christy, the president of ASPSU, created the committee to gather data on COVID-19’s financial impact on students and recommend solutions to university administration.
In the executive order which created the committee, Leslie-Christy stated “the solutions the committee proposes will aim to offset the financial burdens and barriers students may be facing because of COVID-19.”
Leslie-Christy used executive action in order to form the committee as quickly as possible.
“It was the only way other than going through the two-week resolution process,” Leslie-Christy said. “Just as we voted with this commencement resolution today…time was of the essence to get this group together.”
The commencement resolution, titled “A Voice in Commencement,” formally requests for PSU to provide the option of a graduation ceremony at a later date. It also calls on the university to “create a formal process for students to give input and help decide how their commencement will be celebrated.”
If the Senate had not suspended the rules, it would not have been able to vote on the commencement resolution until April 27. ASPSU did not want to wait until halfway through term to pass the resolution, as students will be making plans for virtual commencement, which is currently their only option.
The financial relief committee will identify which resources students need the most and work to make them more accessible. It will consider how to allocate federal stimulus funds. Additionally, according to Leslie-Christy, students may not know about pre-existing resources such as hardship funds and student success funds. He plans to propose a centralization of various financial aid services to university administration.
“From my perspective, they’ve been very willing in recent weeks to listen to students and are very interested in what we want and what we would like to see changed,” Leslie-Christy said.
ASPSU has already begun collecting data for the committee to use. It emailed a survey to all students on April 16 to gather information on the disruptions COVID-19 has caused in their education and finances. The survey asked students about their experiences relating to remote learning, financial and food security, housing and commencement. It also asked for input on how PSU can better support students.
Although the committee will primarily include members of student government, ASPSU encouraged students to apply to become voting members on the committee. ASPSU is no longer accepting applications. The committee will meet from 5–6:30 p.m. every Thursday and the meetings will be live-streamed on ASPSU’s Facebook page.
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ASPSU virtual polls are open at elections.aspsu.pdx.edu until April 29.