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PSU Students Plan Protest for Board of Trustees Meeting

Tuesday, December 08, 2015


Wim Wiewel

In the latest of a recent series of protests against college and university leaders, organizers with the Portland State University Student Union told GoLocalPDX they are planning on protesting during the University’s Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday.

In an open letter to University President Wim Wiewel, the Student Union, a horizontal advocacy group which campaigns for the rights of PSU students list their grievances. 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.”

Mason Ashwell, an organizer with the Student Union, told GoLocal that the group hoped to use the Board of Trustees meeting to let their voice be heard.

“PSUSU's plans for the board meeting is to get more students, staff and faculty to sign up for public comment,” Ashwell said. “This is pretty much the only way the board ever listens to anyone who isn't administration at PSU, and even then they don't really listen most of the time.”

Issues at Hand

Ashwell said that the group specifically plans to target the lack of control that students have over decisions being made at Portland State.

“We are trying to get across to them that they are making decisions for us that we disagree with without our consent,” Ashwell said. “We will also bring up their 5-year strategic plan, which has not gotten enough student input, and there has been very real, very important dissent to the 5-year plan, such as the fact that it would take too long and by the time some of the things on it are accomplished, many students who would benefit from it will have graduated.”

Those will not be the only items on the group’s agenda, however.

“We will also present the board with a list of demands, one of which is to Disarm Campus Public Safety Officers, which PSUSU has been against since it was announced that they would be trying to arm and swear officers,” Ashwell said. “We will also present the board with a list of demands, one of which is to Disarm Campus Public Safety Officers, which PSUSU has been against since it was announced that they would be trying to arm and swear officers.”

Should Wiewel Be Nervous?

Ashwell said she thinks Wiewel should be removed as the University’s President.

“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,” 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 last few months have seen protests like the one planned for Thursday achieve just that. At the University of Missouri, student protests eventually forced the resignation of University President Tom Wolfe. 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: PSU Students React to President’s Compensation and For-Profit Business

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Oliviah Franke, 21, Environmental Science Major, Third Year Undergraduate Student at PSU

"I think it was wrong that it wasn't inherently communicated."

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Josh, 27, Physics Major, Second Year Graduate Student at PSU

"I don't have high expectations [for the administration]. I went to a UC school (previously)."

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Allegra Jongeward, 26, Jazz Voice Major, Second Year Undergraduate Student at PSU

"I feel hopeless when it comes to the administration.  They should be using these resources for the students."

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Meghan Wilson, 22, Jazz Voice Major, Fourth Year Undergraduate Student at PSU

"It doesn't really surprise me.  What always surprises me, though, is there's a pretty good size of students who are knowledgeable, but don't know about these scandals until after they happen.  It's a struggle where to put your priority on getting mad about it.  We want to hold someone accountable but theres so many outside factors."


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