Portland State President Wim Wiewel sat down with the Vanguard at a quarterly Student Media Press Conference on Oct. 9.
He began by discussing a list of topics, including Campus Public Safety, the university’s annual Portland State of Mind event Oct. 22–31, current and upcoming building projects and renovations, labor negotiations with faculty unions, new additions to PSU’s faculty, and what he described as the new spirit in PSU’s athletics.
Campus Public Safety
“The first thing I want to talk about is Campus Safety,” Wiewel said. “After the events at Umpqua Community College… One thing that is important [is] that we still don’t have all the students signed up for the PSU Alert [System], which is our main way of letting people know quickly if something happens.”
The PSU Alert System sends messages to the PSU community via phone, text and email in the case of emergency situations on campus. Wiewel emphasized the importance of students enrolling in this system to aid in campus safety and emergency response.
“We are going to work with individual units—both academic departments and administrative units—to provide them with more assistance to be prepared for emergencies of all types,” he said. “Information about what to do in certain cases is available on the CPSO website, but like so many things in life, people forget about that.”
Healthy campus initiative
Wiewel mentioned the newly implemented smoke and tobacco ban on campus as part of PSU’s Healthy Campus Initiative, a project spearheaded by the Center for Student Health and Counseling and the Campus Rec Center.
He said CPS officers have spoken with over 250 students using tobacco on campus since the start of fall term.
“We’re seeing this as an educational effort,” he said. “The point is…making people realize the dangers and negative effects of smoking, both for themselves and for the people surrounding them.”
Public university funding
Last year, Oregon Legislature approved $700 million to be split between Oregon’s seven public universities. This was greater than the predicted budget, which meant the university lessened an approved 4.2-percent tuition increase to a 3.1-percent increase.
“We were able to do this in time so it was already lowered for fall term,” Wiewel said. “And we will continue to lobby for more money when the legislature reconvenes in February.”
“The economy has been slowing down and there are a lot of other expenses,” he continued. “So legislators have been giving us caution flags about how much more money—if any—we could expect in February. All I can say is that we will push to get the last $55 million for the biennium for all seven universities.”
Changes in athletics
Wiewel also applauded PSU’s athletics department and new Director of Athletics Mark Rountree.
“They are really changing what they do and how they’re doing it,” he said. “They’ve got their athletes doing move-in for the freshmen. They are just getting the athletes engaged on campus, and off campus as well.”
He said Vikings football games are featuring several of PSU’s colleges, including the School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences. They’ve also highlighted the Women’s Resource Center.
Violence prevention & sexual assault
Wiewel continued by announcing PSU’s new Violence Prevention Coordinator, Amy Collins. Collins is scheduled to begin at the end of October.
“She will initiate programs that will do primary prevention of sexual assault on campus, and very much will be in charge of collaborating with the other campus resources like SHAC, the WRC and CPSO,” he said.
“She will also be in charge of conducting the campus climate survey that will have to do with experiences people have with assault and other [subjects] on lack of safety,” he added.
University labor negotiations
Wiewel included an update on PSU’s labor negotiations.
“We settled the contract with the [Service Employees International Union],” he said. “That’s one that we negotiate collectively with the seven universities, so it’s a statewide thing. SEIU still has to complete the voting on it, but everybody feels pretty confident that the contract will be approved.”
“We are in the midst of bargaining with both the [American Association of University Professors]—which is the full-time faculty—and the union for the adjunct faculty,” he continued.
He said this year’s newly employed interest-based bargaining tactics have improved the atmosphere of labor negotiations.
“While everybody agrees that it’s a lengthy process,” he said, “it is going much better and we’re making good progress on it.”
PSU Strategic Plan
“The other thing that we’ve made very good progress on is the Strategic Plan,” Wiewel continued. “We are now at the stage where we have a completed draft that will be circulated the middle of next week.”
He mentioned the Oct. 27 Strategic Plan Ice Cream Social, which will take place as a part of Portland State of Mind.
“[We’ll be] repeating what we did in the spring for students to be able to weigh in on [the Strategic Plan],” he said. “And you know this has just been an amazing, broadly participatory process. And in many ways that was probably as important as the actual content of the plan.”
He said the Strategic Plan reaffirms many of the initiatives the university has already prioritized and highlights areas that require more attention going forward.
“But it’s not any kind of a radical redirection of who we are and where we’re going,” he continued. “And indeed, we’re calling it—very originally—‘Let Knowledge Serve the City’ as a real clear affirmation of the fact that that [motto] continues to be what we’re about.”
Building & renovation projects
The last item on President Wiewel’s topics of interest was current and upcoming campus building and renovation projects.
“In addition to the [School of Business Administration], we will be breaking ground on the Viking Pavilion and the Stott Center renovation,” he said. “It’s really a double project—it’s a renovation of the existing building and turning part of it into a Viking Pavilion.”
“The Viking Pavilion will create space for academic study space, for events, student events, faculty events, as well as outside [presentations] and lectures,” he said.
The space will also host Viking basketball and volleyball.
“The Student Fee Committee contributed $1.5 million to that, which I think was a very smart and strategic investment, because it gives the students a clear place at the table in both the design phase and the use of the building,” he said.
He said the initial groundbreaking on the Viking Pavilion is set for spring 2016.
After his initial address, Wiewel responded to questions from the Vanguard staff regarding CPSO’s transition into a sworn police force, his relationship with this year’s student government leaders and where he thinks the university could most use improvement.
Listen to the Q-and-A online:
For the matching article go to: “Wiewel responds to questions at press conference.”