Portland State Student Group Tells President Wiewel: “Comply or Resign”
Monday, February 08, 2016
The Student Union, a horizontal advocacy group which campaigns for the rights of PSU students, is organizing the protest, which will take place on February 17 at 12 PM. The group is calling on Wiewel and the Board of Trustees to comply with a list of demands published by the Student Union or to resign their posts.
“We are prepared to fight for these demands until they are met without compromise, in order to come closer to our goal for a student, faculty and staff empowered university,” protest organizers declared in a Facebook post promoting the event.
Multiple students told GoLocal they hope this event will mark the beginning of the end for Wiewel's tenure.
“I personally would like Wim removed from his post. In my own opinion, Wim is very inept when it comes to dealing with matters of race and inequality,” Mason Ashwell said. “He went to the Students of Color Speak Out last week and the way he dealt with hearing students' grievances was by rolling his eyes, rubbing his temples and almost refusing to give eye contact when someone would directly address him. I do not feel as though Wim has any student interests at heart, he is only concerned with making sure he keeps getting money, while taking money from students and denying campus workers a living wage.”
Letty Martinez, a student at Portland State, agreed. She told GoLocal that she believes that Wiewel’s term as President should come to a close.
“I think he needs to be removed and there has to be a serious discussion about how much our administrators make,” Martinez said. “I've been told my whole life I need to have a good education to get a good job, but I can't afford to get one...There are professors with no job security, working part-time jobs to be able to pay their expenses and they're supposed to be educating the next generation. He has no struggle, and so much privilege.”
The organization penned a letter in the days leading up to the protest. In the letter, they demand reversal to the decision to arm campus police officers, accuse the school of threatening and call for changes to the school’s leadership.
“At the beginning of the academic year you were interrupted during your convocation speech by concerned students who wanted to inform freshman of armed campus security. after this non-violent action, two student of color were targeted and threatened by the administration,” the letter reads in part.
“This administration prioritizes remodeling the school of business and administration before finding a suitable building for the school of gender, race and nations. They prioritize their own salaries over lowering the price of tuition.”
The Student Union currently has four demands; the disarmament of all public safety officers, that the university break ties with the food service provider Aramark as soon as possible, a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers and that tuition be lowered by lowering administrative salaries.
Not Taking Protest Seriously Would Be A “Big Mistake”
The newly planned protest is not the first time students have directed anger toward University leadership. Student protestors flooded a Board of Trustees meeting in December, demanding that Wiewel and the Board respond to demands for changes on the Portland State Campus.
The Trustees ultimately avoided the protesters. They relocated the meeting, claiming that students disrupted the agenda and made it impossible to continue in the public forum
In light of a recent wave of protests and ousters of University heads at American colleges and universities, the decision to move the meeting may have been a mistake, according to an expert in college protests and responses from University leadership. In the fall of 2015, University of Missouri President Tom Wolfe resigned after students demanded the end of his tenure.
Arthur Jago, a professor of management at the University of Missouri, told GoLocal that if Wiewel and other PSU leaders want to avoid a situation like the one in Columbia, they need to take protestors seriously.
“Each situation and each school is unique, but the first step is opening up a dialogue,” Jago said. “If and when students approach you, Presidents should respond with open arms and respond and take the opportunity to talk to the students and the protestors to create a conversation.”
Related Slideshow: Recapping GoLocalPDX’s Coverage of PSU President Wim Wiewel
More than Meets the Eye
As GoLocal reported in the story PSU President's Salary More than Meets the Eye, Wiewel's salary, which is listed at $401,700, is actually closer to $600,000. While much was made of the President's salary not rising when he received a new contract earlier this year, he receives plenty of perks and benefits as part of his compensation.
One of the biggest new perks Wiewel received in his latest contract is a sabbatical provision. According to the new clause, Wiewel is free to take a sabbatical of one year following the completion of his current three-year contract, and receive his base salary pay, along with travel and automobile fees, as long as he returns the next year as a faculty member.
Students Speak Out
Portland State University students have been outspoken regarding the President's conduct. Letty Martinez, a student, said she thought his actions regarding his executive assistant were "infuriating" and "unconscionable."
Kate Subblefield, another student, said “The benefits that Wim receives are very surprising when looked at compared to what students at PSU have access to,” she said. “Student housing prices are high, food security on campus is hard to come by, and tuition increases mean that students need to spend more time at work to secure the things that President Wiewel receives as part of his contract.”
Students have not been the only ones to decry Wiewel's actions. Mark Alfano, Associate Professor of Ethics at the University of Oregon, said Wiewel's actions go against classical definitions of justice.
“I'm not a legal expert, so I won't speak to the legality of what he's doing," he said. "On the other hand, when something stinks this bad, there ought to be a law.”
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