The second stated goal of the new “Reimagine PSU” statement is:
Accommodating for the changing circumstances of our student's lives, including increasing needs for support with financial aid, housing, mental health services, and academic skills preparation.
What does this mean today, in real life?
Our student body is more stressed and in more need of support than ever before, due to the pandemic’s disruption of social, emotional, and financial supports. If PSU is to meet its second goal statement, it must increase these supports, not merely look for ways to increase student enrollment and remote learning options.
Sadly, instead of increasing the staffing of key student services, to retain, support, and care for the students we already have, the Administration continues to focus on program reduction. The Administration also continues to push for on-campus work without addressing the exacerbated safety concerns that have arisen while being remote for two years, which is a primary concern for students, staff, and faculty alike.
Cuts Where They Hurt the Most
In the past two years, the Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards has been reduced from two academic professionals to just one to address student conduct and student Title IX concerns for the entire student body of more than 23,000. This is untenable and woefully inadequate.
The CARE Program in the Office of Student Affairs is overwhelmed by increased student needs and lack of appropriate staff to support them - only one Case Manager (AP) who manages 400-500 individual cases a term. Again, this is an unsustainable workload and means PSU is not providing sufficient support for students.
PSU-AAUP leadership has been warning Administration about the AP retention crisis and asking for solutions for some time now. Staff have been ringing alarm bells, too.
On February 2nd, two memos were sent to President Percy, Vice Presidents Neely, Reynolds, and Lambert, and General Counsel Starke from the University Public Safety Oversight Committee (UPSOC). This memo alerts them to the increased security issues on campus and requests analysis and additional staffing.
On February 16th, the CARE/Threat Assessment Team (those who work with mental health and medical crises, student housing needs, financial insecurity, sexual and relationship violence on a daily basis) wrote a memo to President Percy, Provost Jeffords, and Vice Presidents Neely and Reynolds asking for full implementation of the Reimagine Safety committee’s and UPSOC’s recommendations.
In a recent resignation letter sent to President Percy, Provost Jeffords, and Vice Presidents Neely and Reynolds from a staff member at PSU, it was expressed that “the institution has not stepped up to support its community during such a vital time…” when addressing the “lack of action toward the safety and support of students and staff…”
Though specific to concerns of the lack of action related to safety on campus, one statement rings true beyond that: “Portland State has had plenty of opportunities to do the right thing and they haven’t.”
The response to these memos – flashing warning signs – from on-the-ground staff pleading for resources and action have been so far met with silence and inaction. As of today, March 26th, 2022, no response has been provided to any of the memos mentioned above.
Action Is Needed Now
Almost half of PSU students are “first-gen” (the first in their families to attend college). One third are BIPOC. One quarter have children at home. A significant number of our students are experiencing houselessness and/or food insecurity.
If we are not reimagining a PSU that supports the needs of all students, then what are we doing?
PSU-AAUP imagines a university that works for everyone. We need full funding and staffing of crucial student support offices and AP positions. We need solutions to campus safety issues that are in alignment with best practices. We need change now.