Student Fee Committee debates future of student funding

Candidates for Associated Students of Portland State University’s Student Fee Committee met to discuss the ways  each candidate is qualified to control funding for many clubs on campus. The April 12 event was held in Smith Memorial Student Union’s Parkway North 101.

Of seven candidates running for the SFC, four candidates met to debate. Current incumbent SFC members Andy Mayer and Mahamadou Sissoko were joined by Nhi Dao, who currently serves as an associate justice for the ASPSU Judicial Review Board, and Patrick Meadors, who has no previous ASPSU experience but seems very interested in learning.

Why run for Student Fee Committee?

Sissoko was inspired to join ASPSU after realizing that people can actually do things about the problems they see on campus.

“I saw things happening, thinking I had no control over them,” Sissoko remembered. “This position is an opportunity for me to address issues that I see on a daily basis happening to me and my fellow students.”

Dao joined for similar reasons.

“I know how student government works, and I know what problems are happening,” Dao said. “That’s why I want to be in student government, to help my people.”

A three-year veteran of the SFC, Andy Mayer also believes student government exists to attempt to solve problems that students have.

“It was really eye-opening seeing the level of control students have over their incidental fees and the things we can do with them,” Mayer said. “We address a lot of really powerful issues. To me that’s what ASPSU and the SFC are for, to address issues that face students.”

Meadors, new to student government, expressed enthusiasm about learning more about how student government works and how he can help.

“There are lots of people that need assistance,” Meadors said. “These are people that have families, that are taking full course loads and working several jobs, all just in one person. That just boggles my mind, that they have to balance so many things and I would like to be able to help those people.”

Meadors also asserted that he is interested in helping students affected by recent travel bans and listening to their concerns.

What is the SFC and how you will make it better?

As most students may be unaware of what the SFC is, Andy Mayer was asked by debate moderators to expand on what exactly the SFC is and does.

“Oregon law stipulates that certain mandatory incidental fees that every student pays when they attend school are to be controlled and allocated by the student government,” Mayer explained. “SFC is ASPSU’s committee that does that work. We get budget requests from almost 40 fee-funded areas, resource centers, cultural centers, ASPSU, legal services, student groups, the rec center, athletics, all the trauma care services on campus, and all of student media—and much, much more.”

“We take that and we have to balance a budget that’s almost 16 million dollars in total,” Mayer continued. “That’s the work we do, it’s very important work, in my opinion, and it provides those services that they don’t get from the rest of the university.”

Mayer also asserted that while PSU’s professional staff receive wage increases to assist with higher costs of living, student workers should but have not received similar increases.

Sissoko expressed belief in the importance of listening to and learning from others. Sissoko is also a firm advocate in conducting thorough research to get all of the facts needed to govern appropriately.

If elected, Meadors’ first priority will be learning everything that the SFC does and what the current state of things are behind the scenes before making plans about what to do next.

Dao hopes to learn more about the SFC and help educate students outside of ASPSU about all the of the things student government does in order to encourage them to get involved as well.

Sissoko, Mayer, and Dao have all decided to run without a slate, citing a lack of need for outside associations. Meadors believes that by running on the Engage PSU slate, they can begin to foster communication and dialogue that will prove useful if elected.

“What I want to see from the SFC this year is to be more critical than we have been in the past, which is a hard thing to do,” Mayer said.