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Leaders refuse to budge

PSU Provost Mary Kay Tetreault is convinced Portland State is a “first rate university.” By marketing the University’s strong points and working to improve other areas, she is hoping to get PSU the recognition it deserves.

“We just received the Hesburgh Award,” Tetreault said in a Tuesday interview. “This award is only given to five universities in the entire United States.”

The Hesburgh Award is given to universities dedicated to rethinking undergraduate education. PSU received the prize for its dedication to community-based learning.

Part of the plan to change the image of PSU stirred controversy two weeks ago, when students learned that the minimum incoming freshman GPA could possibly change from 2.5 to 3.0. Student leaders rallied to delay the change until more research could be performed to determine the effects that the change would have on accessibility to higher education for students of color.

Tetreault remains convinced that the GPA change can be made without losing the diversity that PSU currently boasts. “We can increase standards while still increasing enrollment of traditionally underrepresented groups,” she said.

This has become a point that student leaders and Tetreault seem hopelessly at odds upon; when asked if the GPA change could be made without hurting student diversity, student body president Mary Cunningham simply said “No.”

Cunningham and others have continued to fight the proposal. Since meeting nearly two weeks ago with Tetreault, Cunningham has spoken with President Bernstine and various members of the faculty senate pleading her case.

The two opposing sides appear to be dedicated to their causes, and in recent interviews, neither camp discussed the possibility of a compromise.

Tetreault has already admitted the oversight in student input on the proposal to raise the GPA requirement, and agreed with President Bernstine that more time was needed to hear student voices. She followed through on this by meeting with student leaders, including Cunningham on one occasion, and both sides seem eager to continue the discussion.

“We are planning to have more discussions on campus, more student forums,” Tetreault said.

“We need to figure out a process that includes students,” Cunningham said.

No firm plans have been made as to when the proposed change may take place, and for the moment, the measure appears to be in limbo.

To take effect, the proposal needs to be supported by the faculty senate, the president or provost and then finally the Oregon University System (OUS). The faculty senate already approved the measure, the president and provost approve of it, and the understanding is that the OUS would pass it.

Cunningham and her colleagues see the faculty senate as their best chance to overturn the measure. After the meeting with Tetreault, student leaders began to pursue an open dialogue with faculty senate members, to be sure that faculty members understand the student position and their concerns about diversity on campus.

“We are calling faculty senators and trying to meeting with them, just to discuss this issue,” Cunningham said.