New president of Portland State University, Ann Cudd officially started work on August 1st. Despite the challenges she faces she said she is looking forward to what the future holds. Courtesy of Portland State University

 Interview with President Ann Cudd

Cudd speaks on issues impacting PSU community

The Portland State community welcomed new President Ann Cudd at the beginning of the summer. With the start of the academic year fast approaching, Cudd spoke with Portland State Vanguard to address the issues affecting the PSU community.


First day as president 


As her first official act as president via an email sent to the PSU employees over the summer term, Cudd announced a change in her leadership team.


“In order to build a new leadership team, I have asked Susan Jeffords to step down as Provost, effective August 1,” the email stated. “Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Dean of Interdisciplinary General Education Shelly Carbon will assume the role of Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.”


Cudd’s email hailed Jeffords for her highly-valued, five-year career at PSU—specifically her role in negotiating transitions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cudd explained how it’s common practice for new presidents to establish their own leadership team, which led to her decision to replace Jeffords.


“The most important thing is a cohesive leadership team, because no executive can carry out all of the responsibilities they have for a large institution like this alone,” Cudd said. “They need to have a team that will work well together. It was my judgment that in order to build that cohesive leadership team I needed to make some changes.”


In her email, Cudd explained how Chabon’s former position as a trusted liaison to PSU’s union partners made her an asset to her new role as interim provost.

New president of Portland State University, Ann Cudd said she is most excited about getting students, faculty, and staff excited to be on campus. Courtesy of Portland State University


PSUFA bargaining


Portland State Faculty Association (PSUFA) has continued bargaining for a cost of living increase (COLA). As Vanguard previously reported, PSUFA indicated its readiness to take collective action if they do not reach an agreement. However, Cudd said she is confident in their ability to reach a solution and thinks a strike is unlikely.


“We’re very optimistic that a solution will be found,” Cudd explained. “We have called for mediation, but we still have another bargaining session before that would take place, and we hope that we come to a solution before that time.”


On their bargaining recap blog, PSUFA expressed concern over the administration’s decision to seek mediation.


“We hope that it is motivated by a commitment to continue bargaining in good faith and in a democratic spirit and not an attempt at unilateral implementation of their vision of ‘fairness’ and ‘equity’ upon our unit,” the blog stated.


However, Cudd explained how she thinks mediation could help to bring this months-long bargaining to a close.


“[Mediation is] a mechanism in bargaining with unions that is often employed that we think could be helpful to bring it to a close,” she said. “We’re very committed to a cost of living raise for our adjuncts. I am not clear on the Oregon specific law regarding this, but I don’t believe a strike would be possible or within the rules at the beginning of the term.”


Campus Safety


With safety on our urban campus being a high priority for most, Cudd said she is making it a priority to ensure the safety of all students and faculty here at PSU. Cudd said she would engage in strategic planning and community conversation to identify how the campus can be safer for all.


“My highest priority is public safety and the safety of the students and faculty and so forth,” Cudd said. “Everything from keeping the campus clean and populated to having a presence of student ambassadors to help with that presence and engage [in] the campus conversation about public safety as well. We’re going to be doing strategic planning, which I hope will be very energizing as well as an opportunity for students and the whole campus to meet together in person as well to build a strategic plan that really helps us to reaffirm our mission, our values and our vision going forward in a sort of big, overarching way.”


Cudd explained how these plans will consist of detailed objectives based on an analysis of what PSU is doing well, what the students want, what employers need from students and how to connect those aspects effectively.


One significant change accompanying Cudd’s first year of presidency is her decision to become a part of Governor Tina Kotek’s Central City Task Force.


“I was very pleased to be invited to be on Governor Kotek’s task force,” Cudd said. “I think it’s natural that the PSU president would be there because of the close inner connection between Portland State University and [the city of] Portland—especially in the downtown area, which is what we’re really focused on. Clearly, the biggest issues for the Central City Task Force are homelessness, safety, retail vacancy and other office vacancies. I want PSU to be part of the solution to these things.”


Some members of the community have expressed concerns over the task force’s closed-door meeting policy. Street Roots reported that Kotek’s new policy will shut out members of the public, the media and long-time public service providers.


Despite Oregon’s public meetings law which requires all advisory council and governing body meetings to be open to the public, Kotek’s office has argued a technicality allows the task force to operate outside transparency requirements.


However, as a newly appointed member of the task force, Cudd said she has begun conversations about how student homelessness can contribute to the city’s overall problem and how to address that best.

Courtesy of Portland State University


Campus rearming and CPSO


Cudd explained that she is planning to work with CPSO Chief Willie Halliburton and the University Public Safety Oversight Committee (UPSOC) to address concerns about her predecessor, Stephen Percy’s, decision to rearm CPSO officers.


“I’m very concerned about the safety for all of our campus community,” Cudd said. “It’s a complicated issue, and it’s one where we need to work together. I’ve spoken with Chief Halliburton [on] his views about safety on campus and the decision to rearm the police, and I think he is very committed to finding solutions, so that all of our students and faculty and staff can feel safe and feel that they belong as well… I see this as an ongoing community conversation and a very important one.”


Cudd said the widespread threat of gun violence across the country was a significant aspect of Halliburton’s decision to rearm campus police last year, as well as the reason behind his more recent decision to secure campus buildings. However, some students are worried PSU’s efforts to secure campus buildings will lead to more issues.


A flier posted in one of PSU’s academic buildings explained that the Educational Policy Committee passed a policy change which will no longer allow PSU students to access buildings after hours.


“They are trying to limit student access to buildings after hours, which will most likely lead to profiling,” said Jay Butler, a graduate student at PSU.


Other students have indicated concerns about CPSO’s treatment of unhoused people on campus. Dory Hammersley, a graduate student at PSU, said she hopes campus police will “stop harassing homeless people who are… not doing drugs or causing trouble.”


Cudd explained how safety on campus is a complicated issue, but she is actively looking for solutions to ensure the safety and comfortability of all members of the PSU community. 

Campus living during heat waves


A previous “Letter to the Editor” responded to an Opinion article about University Housing & Residence Life’s (UHRL) cooling policy. It described how the intense heat over summer term caused many students living in PSU housing to struggle to stay cool.


“PSU needs to take this heat wave to an emergency level as the rest of the city has, where heat has gravely affected those without homes,” the letter stated. “Heat also affects the wellbeing of our students who are paying—literally and figuratively—to live in the dorms at Portland State.”


Both the letter and the Opinion article argued that UHRL must change the cooling policy which forbids students to use air conditioning units.


Cudd explained how this climate change of high temperatures is rapidly overtaking the infrastructure at PSU.


“We are continually evaluating and reevaluating how buildings need to be upgraded in order to meet our standards,” Cudd said. “Another aspect of wellness is making sure that students are well aware of things like places you can go to keep cool when it’s incredibly hot like that, and also the measures like drinking enough water and taking it easy on days like that.”


Despite the many challenges facing the PSU community, Cudd said she is overall optimistic about her first year as President.


“I am thrilled to be here,” Cudd said. “I’ve just found it to be a really beautiful and exciting place to be. So many people are excited for the future, and so am I. It feels like a good rhythm is starting.”