Senate candidates discuss student involvement

Next year’s batch of Associated Students of Portland State University senators met to discuss campus disarmament and student body involvement with ASPSU, April 10 in Parkway North.

All candidates will be elected to the ASPSU senate whether or not they attended the debate, as there are not enough candidates to fill all available senatorial positions.

On disarming campus public safety officers, the majority of candidates at the debate were in favor of keeping the officers armed. The only senators for disarmament were Peter Wedlake, Aydia Johnson and Grace Hagemann.

Several senators added that their own personal opinions would be secondary to the consensus of the student body.

“That’s not my decision, ultimately,” candidate Nathan Mapes said. “If the vast majority of students want it, I am obligated to push the student body’s agenda.”

On Jason Washington’s death last year, Mapes said “the tragedy last year could have been avoided with de-escalation training. I don’t think that is something that is likely to occur again.”

Current ASPSU member Sophie Balthazaar said de-escalation training would help CPSO avoid similar situations.

“[There should be] more stringent probation when issues like [Washington’s death] happen,” said candidate Nicholas LaHusen. “There needs to be an open dialogue between CPSO, the administration and the student body.”   

During the debate, both Mapes and senate candidate Wyatt Isaacs supported the idea of more safety training and student interaction with CPSO.

“CPSO are normal human beings—they all make mistakes, but I feel like they’re going to uphold the law,” Isaacs said. “If you have no reason to fight with them, they’re usually nice people. I believe if we just get to know them, maybe [students will] feel more safe.”

All of the senators present at the debate said they believe CPSO needs de-escalation techniques and should participate in ongoing training.

“The students don’t have anything to be afraid of,” Mapes said. “But, again, ultimately, [disarmament is] not my choice.”

The other major issue discussed in the senate debates was student involvement in ASPSU.

Wedlake suggested having a forum held by ASPSU senators once a term for students to bring their concerns to their representatives.

“ASPSU has an obligation to be transparent,” Wedlake said. “Senators get paid to do this job. Any elected government body is meant to act in a neutral way and listen to the constitution. I want to give the voice and the power back to the people.”

Balthazaar said ASPSU should be focused on physically reaching out to students in classes, on campus and in clubs to ask for their opinions on school matters.