Viking Pavilion fails to prioritize student groups

Despite the Student Fee Committee authorizing $1.5 million in student fees toward the creation of the Viking Pavilion in 2017–18, the price to use the space for events for student groups has doubled in 2019.

According to invoices provided by United Indigenous Students for Higher Education Coordinator Matthew Morsman, the price to hold the 47th Annual Naimuma Pow Wow in May 2018 in the Viking Pavilion was $3,500.

To hold the same event in 2019, the administration is charging a flat rate of $3,500 for renting the space in the Viking Pavilion, plus an extra $3,734 for various fees. The total cost to host the 48th Naimuma Pow Wow in 2019 is $7,234.

“This extra cost is one-third of our budget for the year and makes it difficult to access the space and cuts into the budget for community engagement,” Morsman said.

UISHE requested the administration waive the $3,500 rental fee in February 2019 in a letter addressed to PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi.

The letter stated: “The Pow Wow is an example of PSU’s historical commitment to student success. It is specifically the existence of these special gathering spaces that helps increase student recruitment and retention.”

The letter also stated UISHE understands the labor and other expenses associated with hosting events at the Pavilion, and they are willing to pay those costs.

”Charging our group the rental fees…creates an undue burden for us to bear,” stated the letter. “The campus will be a better place if we are allowed to spend our money in more social justice-oriented and ethnically supportive measures.”

Student Group Concerns

UISHE is one of two student groups struggling with increased costs for renting out the Pavilion. The Pacific Islanders Club—the only other club able to host an event in the Viking Pavilion—has seen a price increase of over $1,500 from 2018–19.

Mia Nako, president of the PIC, wrote a similar letter to the administration and Shoureshi about the PIC’s growing concern for rising costs. Nako said the PIC has yet to hear a response.

In the letter, the PIC addressed the rising costs as infringing on the quality of their event.

“We do not feel supported by the PSU administration when we must sacrifice the quality of our event to pay for arena space that was built for students,” the PIC wrote.

The PIC also asks in the letter for the $3,500 fee to be waived for their annual Lu’au.

“Through our events, [the PIC] focuses on building connections between students, PSU and the greater Portland community, and while educating them about the history, culture and identity of Pacific Islanders club,” the letter continues.

The PIC said—as a group representing indigenous peoples—they are united in solidarity with UISHE, and they hope their actions give the administration the “opportunity to consider student organizations when thinking about how student fee dollars are used for campus amenities in the future.”

University Response

Morsman confirmed the university has denied the request to lower the cost for the 2019 Annual Naimuma Pow Wow.

“We’re still trying to put the needle on this…what our rates will be in the long term, our budget balance, how [to] support all the multicultural activities we want to support on campus and provide the right-sized space for them, and I think we’re on the right path,” Accetta said.

For the Naimuma Pow Wow, the extra fees—a $3,734 charge on top of the $3,500 flat rental fee—include a housekeeping fee, a fee for the Coast to Coast security group, an on-site event manager, event staff, a fire permit, gaffer tape and extra “gaff staff” members.

The gaffer tape, priced at $18 a roll for 33 rolls, is to secure the carpet squares used to protect the gym flooring in the Viking Pavilion. The gaff staff is the official name on the invoice for a team of student employees responsible for taping the carpet.

During last year’s Pow Wow, tribal elders described the squares as a safety concern, as traditional dancing might cause slippage.

“[UISHE] was asked what it would take to [make it] the way they wanted it to be done,” Accetta said. “That’s what it takes. They’re asking us to pay students to tape the entire floor, and that’s what it costs…carpet squares are the best way to take care of [the floor] in the long-term to meet the needs of the majority of clients.”

The conference and events team has also said they have had “pretty clear communication” with both student groups hosting events in the Viking Pavilion in 2019.

The Viking Pavilion team met with UISHE three times before the Pow Wow in 2018. In 2019, both UISHE and the conference and events team are attempting to meet eight times.

“I think the Pow Wow is an important part of our tradition at PSU,” Accetta said. “I think these are reasonable costs and reasonable expectations that we try to attribute consistently.”

On forgiving the costs UISHE and PIC requested, Accetta said, “It’s in the overall context of the university struggling with trying to keep costs down. If the president forgives this here, he has to forgive something else someplace else. That’s his choice.”

Shoureshi has not responded to UISHE or PIC as of April 2019.

Viking Pavilion History

The Viking Pavilion opened on April 4, 2018, and was built by Fortis Construction Inc. The building was funded primarily from state bonds, a $7.5 million sponsorship from OHSU and $1.5 million in student fees allocated by the SFC.

Former PSU President Wim Weiwel said, “The Pavilion will add collaborative study space, create a new destination center on campus and provide OHSU and PSU with much-needed event space.”

Shoureshi said at the grand opening of the Viking Pavilion the building would be a “great center for athletics and a cultural center.”

Director of Student Organization Advising Brian Janssen said the Pacific Islanders Club and UISHE are currently the only student groups utilizing the space.  

“This is in part because they hold the largest student group events but also because of the cost-restrictive nature of renting the space,” Janssen said.

On the Pavilion’s purpose, Assistant Vice President for Campus Recreation and Student Union Services Alex Accetta said “the first thing it’s intended for is Viking Athletics. When the building [was created], the idea was that it would also be an event center to help pay for the costs necessary to run it.”

The first event held after the grand opening of the Pavilion occurred April 5, 2018 and was TechFestNW, hosted by an outside company. The company previously hosted their festival at the Portland Art Museum.

In 2019, the university paid an estimated $10,000 to bring WiFi to TechFestNW. The budget released earlier in 2019 indicated the university is $18 million in debt. Accetta said the school has a three-year agreement with TechFestNW to host their event in the Viking Pavilion.

“TechFest agreed to come here before the building was completed. We did work with them to help get WiFi in the building so we could work with the School of Business and meet the needs of the client,” he said. “It was actually a long-term cost savings.”

When asked what TechFestNW does for the school, Accetta said, “They’re a client. They built a really strong relationship with the School of Business [in 2018]. It brings tons of technology companies to our campus, to see our campus and see what Portland State is about, and those businesses are the ones that are going to hire our students.”