ASPSU president resigns citing stress, lack of support, structural issues
After nearly three terms in the position, Violet Gibson stepped down as president of the Associated Students of Portland State.
With her resignation, Kyle Leslie-Christy, Gibson’s former competitor in the 2019 ASPSU elections and current vice president, now takes on the role.
The decision was originally announced at a Feb. 28 executive meeting with ASPSU’s committee directors. According to Leslie-Christy, Gibson texted him before the meeting, notifying him that she and Tristin Crum, the executive director, would be resigning—she would address it during both the day’s meeting and at senate the following Monday.
“I didn’t know that I was going to be running [the meeting], but that’s eventually what happened.” Leslie-Christy said.
Having resigned completely from ASPSU, Gibson went on to address the executive committee during the meeting’s public comment.
According to the meeting’s official minutes: “[I decided] after the last [Leadership Core] meeting.” Gibson said, “We had L-Core on Monday. Wednesday I did an entire pros and cons list. Thursday I realized that there is so much that I can take. I need to understand my limits.”
Gibson and Crum’s resignations were later announced to the rest of ASPSU’s members at Monday’s March 2 senate meeting.
“The beginning of the year was definitely really challenging for me…Hearing some of the things that came through my L-Core were really challenging for me,” Gibson explained. “And I feel like, with the lack of support, I definitely just wasn’t able to do it. Psychologically I couldn’t be your president, emotionally I couldn’t do it.”
“I think being in politics takes some kind of armor for people to have. And I’m one of these people who just, I want to make people happy. I want everybody to have a good time, and I guess in politics, that can’t always necessarily be the case.”
Gibson also talked about misconceptions surrounding the presidential position in ASPSU.
“I think people don’t understand that as student body president, you don’t have as much power as people think,” she explained. “Everyone thinks you have this administrative power. But in all honesty, all I can really do is just report up to the president [of the university].”
Gibson went on to accept questions from senate members and attendees and cited multiple reasons for her resignation, including a lack of support in her role, stress outside of ASPSU and a toxic environment within the organization.
Nicholas Lahusen, the academic affairs director, had asked, “If the organization was so toxic, why stay a part of it for five years?”
“I thought I could change it,” Gibson responded. “I thought I could make it better. And every single year, I came into this thinking, I can do better. I can make change. I just need more power. And I can do it. I couldn’t.”
Joshua Childs, the university affairs director, questioned if structural issues were to blame, following multiple absences by Gibson in previous meetings.
“Considering the last month to two months, especially this term, of just absence in the office, and I take issue with presenting it as a whole structural problem,” he said.
“For the most part, my understanding of my job was to go to meetings and to make sure you all were achieving to the best of your ability,” Gibson responded. “I was always in the building. I don’t think I had the capacity to be in the office, and, I guess, to an extent, cope with that.”
“I think another place where I did mess up is not necessarily understanding the full aspect of the social role of this job…But you’re right, I do need to take accountability for not being there,” Gibson said.
At the time of publication, Gibson did not respond for comment.
Following the resignations, multiple positions were appointed at the same senate meeting: Lahusen replaced Crum as executive staff director, Madeline Frisk replaced Lahusen as academic affairs director and Alexandra Modjeski replaced Leslie-Christy as vice president. Leslie-Christy became the new student body president.
“I was kind of surprised,” Leslie-Christy said about Gibson’s resignation. “I had wanted her to kind of stick it out. But after hearing her reasons for wanting to resign, it kind of made sense.”
Leslie-Christy started this year in ASPSU as the publicity director. After student government’s previous vice president resigned, he was appointed to the position by a vote from ASPSU senate at their Oct. 28 meeting. With Gibson’s resignation, Leslie-Christy filled her role without a vote required by the senate.
“I’m gonna be honest—I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m jovial. I’m very forward thinking right now,” Leslie-Christy said about his new position. “I have a lot on my shoulders, and I have a lot of ability to delegate those responsibilities to other people and help others develop their own skills. And I feel like that’s what a good leader does, being able to step up and step back.”
His first goal: to create a more clear vision of ASPSU’s goals for the rest of the year.
Leslie-Christy listed a number of issues which would be important for ASPSU to focus on, including sustainability and environmental justice on campus, increased food security and affordable housing for students, and finding more ways to bring resource centers and student groups together.
“My vision for ASPSU is very community oriented,” he said. “It’s oriented as engagement within our own community and…within the Portland State community.”
After finishing Gibson’s term, Leslie-Christy won’t be finished—he plans to run for student body president in the upcoming spring elections.
“There’s a lot of ways that people want to be involved,” he said, “and there’s a lot of ways that we kind of just continue to work in our own little circles, in our own offices, in our own individual spaces, but there’s also a lot of opportunity for us to collaborate.”