The Associated Students of Portland State University Judicial Review Board voted April 22 to restart student government elections, citing an effort to create a full democratic process for student voters.
The decision came in the wake of a J-board vote to deem Dr. Khalid Alballaa, the presidential candidate of Students for Affordable Education, ineligible to hold office, leaving former Multicultural Affairs Director Tony Funchess, of the Step Up, Speak Out, Stand Together slate, the only candidate running for president.
ASPSU reopened candidate applications, which were due April 28. After eligibility checks were completed, ASPSU announced an updated list of candidates.
There are four declared slates and several independent candidates on the ballot. Of these candidates, there are 4 presidential and vice presidential teams, 19 Student Fee Committee candidates and 22 Senate candidates. Voters can also write in candidates.
The four slates are Let Knowledge Serve the CommUNITY; Students Together for Advocacy, Reform and Tomorrow (START); Student Power Coalition; and Students for Students.
Ballot-registered candidates gathered April 30 at a Candidate Meet & Greet event in Smith Memorial Student Union where candidates had the opportunity to speak on behalf of their campaigns.
Kaitlyn Verret, President, Let Knowledge Serve the CommUNITY
According to Kaitlyn Verret, one of the chief goals of her slate is to engage students.
“It’s a commuter school, so everyone has their own little groups,” she emphasized. [We are] putting the unity back in community…getting the glue back into our community.”
The slate’s name, she explained, partially incorporates PSU’s slogan of “Let knowledge serve the city.”
“Especially after last year with the elections and this year with all the drama, and obviously our slate kind of incorporates it, but getting the community and the unity back, so getting more students involved, feeling like it’s a safe and inclusive space and spreading knowledge about ASPSU.”
In light of the conflicts that she mentioned, Verret added that another of her goals is centered on garnering more cooperation within ASPSU and PSU, even among parties that differ from one another.
“Even if we all aren’t crazy about each other, we disagree, if we all can come together to actually get the key issues addressed and worked on, then things can get done and it doesn’t matter if we’re all best friends,” Verret said.
Before the election was restarted by the J-Board, Verret was the vice presidential candidate for the SUSOST slate, alongside presidential running mate Tony Funchess.
Now running for student body president, she explained some of her reasons for supporting Tali Aynalem, her new slate’s vice-presidential candidate.
“She’s great at socializing with people and getting people to come together,” Verret said. “She’s great at organization and motivating people, so I thought she’d be a great vice president.”
Tali Aynalem, Vice President, Let Knowledge Serve the CommUNITY
Aynalemspoke about what she brings to the table as Verret’s new running mate.
“I started to attend PSU in September,” Aynalem said. “I am a part of…the Jewish Student Union, the Black Student Union, the [Black Cultural Advisory Board], the African Association. “So I bring a very diverse background, and I feel like I can really help to bring the community back together at PSU.”
One topic that Aynalem particularly wanted to see addressed, should she be elected, is the ASPSU Student Food Pantry, stating that improvements could benefit student athletes who might not have time to work due to their academic and athletic obligations.
Aynalem emphasized, “bringing that to a different level to where we have more food there and we have more toiletries and more students are aware of it and it’s open for more than two hours [per weekday].”
Dana Ghazi, President, Student Power Coalition
Dana Ghazi, presidential candidate for the Student Power Coalition, said her slate is tied together by their commitment to representing diverse student voices.
“That’s something unique to our slate—that it’s the most diverse slate,” Ghazi said. “I’m really very happy and inspired that we have so many women running for so many of the positions.”
Ghazi added that one of her slate’s main goals relating to diversity is to make PSU’s campus a more inclusive place. Sexual Assault in particular, she said, are a significant focal point of the Student Power Coalition’s direction.
“There hasn’t been a lot of engagement from students around this issue recently in the past few terms and around how to ensure security but also safety for the students themselves and for sexual assault victims, so we want to ensure this is at the forefront of what we are doing,” Ghazi said.
Citing preexisting efforts toward creating a unilaterally welcoming campus, Ghazi said collaborating with other students on issues of inclusivity is a priority.
“The only thing we could add is [to] introduce measures where these services are more accessible…introducing it in different languages, having trainings around cultural competency and sexual assault and how it’s expressed across culture.”
Davíd Martinez, Vice President, Student Power Coalition
“We are very diverse,” Martinez said. “We have students from Africa, students from southeast Asia, students from Latin America, students from Mexico.”
Additionally, according to Martinez, unlike many of the slates that he remembers seeing in the past at PSU, most of the Student Power Coalition’s candidates are women.
“We want to break those habits of student government when the man is always the president and the woman is the vice president,” Martinez said.
He added that another goal of the Student Power Coalition is to end what he perceives as a tendency of student government to speak on behalf groups not actually represented within the governments themselves.
“For me as a student, I think a student government should speak up so the students [can] have more voice in the decision,” Martinez said. “I feel there was not enough voice or participation from the students in general and that’s something that I want to change, too. I want to get students engaged with student government and participate more.”
Kyle Sallee, President, START
Kyle Sallee transferred from Willamette University in 2013. This is his third year at PSU, he ismajoring in history and he is considering a law degree.
Sallee said his focus as student body would be on mental health issues.
“We feel it’s incredibly important to bring a [about] dialogue to mental health issues on campus, because it’s not talked about, and it should be,” Sallee said.
Sallee’s previous political experience includes an Associated Student Body Presidency at Scappoose High School, a chair position in the Highway 30 Safety Board, and an Oregon Congressional Internship.
“Our second plan is a longitudinal study of ASPSU,” Sallee said. “The study will incorporate ASPSU’s effectiveness to communicate with the student body.”
“Following that study, we’re hoping to start immediately restructuring PSU,” he added.
In Sallee’s candidacy statement, for ASPSU, he said, “Going forward, I hope to inspire a sense of pride and ownership on this campus to reverse the disenfranchised culture that runs so deep. It is time for a new face inside ASPSU.
Donovan Powell, Vice President, START
Powell is majoring in social science and minoring in law and legal studies. He has two years’ experience in ASPSU, though he is not part of this year’s student government body.
Powell co-chaired the Visions and Reform Committee, a board which restructured ASPSU’s constitution.
“ASPSU, historically, is a powerhouse in the [Oregon Student Association], a powerhouse in legislature, and we’re known for taking people and getting them somewhere,” Powell said in his slate’s presentation.
“If we want to better represent students, then we need to know what they want to be represented on,” he added.
Powell discussed one of his slate’s three major platforms: the creation of a student hub, which would increase ASPSU’s visibility and allow for more direct communication between ASPSU and students.
Andy Mayer, President, Students for Students
Mayer is an engineering major in his third year at PSU. He has been a member of the SFC for the past year and now serves as SFC Chair.
“We’re trying to focus on what we can actually do next year,” said Mayer. “Overall, we’re working towards a safe and inclusive environment on campus. What that means for us is revamping the University sexual assault policy.”
Mayer’s slate will also focus on the Campus Public Safety Office’s policing practices after they are deputized next year.
“Eighty-five percent of students say they feel that they’re safe on campus all the time,” Mayer said. “We want to make sure that what they’re afraid of isn’t our own officers.”
In Mayer’s ASPSU candidacy statement, he also addressed higher education costs and student debt.
“I’ve chosen between textbooks and groceries, all while working 20 hours a week for the university for minimum wage,” he said. “These are problems that need to be addressed now, not later, and I’m looking to do that.”
Keikoanne Hollins, Vice President, Students for Students
Hollins is a senior majoring in Child and Family Studies. She has served as a member of the SFC for the past academic year and is currently SFC Vice Chair.
Hollins stressed the importance of fighting increases in student fees in next year’s budget.
“Student affordability, working with the payment plan: those types of things where we really consider how policy affects students is important to me,” Hollins said.
Hollins reiterated her slate’s focus on sexual assault awareness at PSU.
“My view on our platform is that it’s really about giving voices to people that don’t have them,” Hollins said.
She also spoke about how her major affects her approach to student politics.
“I’m a Child and Family Studies major, and that’s in the school for social work, so I understand people that want to make changes for people,” Hollins said.
This coverage only represents executive candidates. Several students are running for SFC and Senate positions either independently or in association with declared slates. For a full list of candidate statements and the open ballot, visit aspsu.pdx.edu.
Voting closes May 6 at 7 p.m. and results will be announced no later than May 9.