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Sleeping With the Enemy

OSPIRG Toolkit

The OSPIRG “Activist Toolkit”.

Yesterday Guy Simmons and I made an appearance at the OSPIRG meeting down in Suite 1. We introduced ourselves with our real names with no intention of hiding from who we are. We received a plethora of materials, including an “Activist Toolkit” that, among other things, included instructions on how to “rap” with kids about OSPIRG. (Because it’s still 1968 and the word “rap” is culturally relevant in that context)

The question I was asking myself as we sat down with these people was, “How are these people still here?” OSPIRG is not a funded or ASUO recognized group, yet they still have office space, computers, an internet connection, a phone and electricity (lights, etc) given to them at the cost of the EMU (and presumably the students).

The campus organizer introduced himself as well as the two volunteer staffers that were in attendance. They proceeded to explain that OSPIRG, “Sends constituents to congress to speak on behalf of the students.”

At that point I asked, “Okay so you send people to… lobby for students? It’s a lobbyist group?” The answer was, of course, “Yes.”

They proceeded to explain to me that OSPIRG uses the mandated tuition money it receives received from the student government to pay for lobbyists to go to Washington D.C. and Salem to lobby for things like “lower textbook prices” and “lowered tuition”.

When I asked if they had proof that the money students gave to OSPIRG was directly returned to students they said, “Yes, absolutely. We have all of that. And last year we told the ASUO like, several times, how we return the money to campus.”

This, of course, was a lie. Last year’s ASUO de-funded OSPIRG because it could not, in fact, show proof of a direct return of students’ money.

When I asked how they were able to still keep things like events and salaries going, the campus organizer, who is the only paid employee there, told me that other money is being given to the University of Oregon chapter by other PIRG’s in the state of Oregon. That’s right… they directly admitted to using the money they receive from the tuition of the students at Southern Oregon University and Lane Community College for usage at the University of Oregon. Since the efforts of OSPIRG here at the UO is all about getting themselves re-funded through the ASUO, I can hardly understand how the money from SOU and LCC is directly benefiting the students from those schools.

If that’s not an admission of those students’ money not being returned to their campus, I don’t know what is.

The worst part of the entire meeting was when I asked how much funding they’d lost. “About $117,000,” said the campus organizer. “So you could be getting paid $100,000 a year to be a campus organizer?” I asked. He proceeded to tell me that the $117,000 goes off-campus to pay the salaries of OSPIRG lobbyists in Salem and Washington D.C. “Plus,” said one staffer, “It was only like, a $1.66 to every student on campus. I mean, $1.66 isn’t that much.”

I had to stop myself from asking him, “Only a $1.66? Okay, can I have a $1.66 from you right now? It’s only a $1.66”

Things got a little heated (mind you, this is still before they realized who I was) when I asked why they felt that the I-Fee, which is a mandated tax on students as part of their tuition, should pay for something like OSPIRG. If students wanted a lobbyist group they felt was aligned with their interests, couldn’t they just come down to the state offices and donate money?

A fiery staffer responded with, “Hey, I don’t want the Women’s Center but we still have it, don’t we? You can’t just take things away because ‘some people’ don’t want them!”

I responded with, “Well, doesn’t the Women’s Center directly benefit students here on campus? They have an office, they do work on assault prevention, domestic violence, training workshops, they have a library to check out books, they have computers for people to go in and use, they provide breast feeding supplies and storage….”

He wasn’t pleased with my response. At that point, he and another staffer left to conference in the hall.

The rest of the meeting was filled with babble about what they were doing here on campus and the conferences they were holding etc. By the time they wanted to do individual conferences with us about “what we wanted to work on” they had pretty much figured out who we were. One of them eventually recognized me, “Are you a reporter from the Commentator or something?”

I suppose my clean-shaven head, button down shirt, Italian wool coat and wingtip shoes put me a little out of place in Suite 1, so I responded with, “Yes, I’m Dane–the Publisher.”

Even after this, they were still trying to get us to come to their next meeting. They were trying to entice us with pizza and other snacks a few days later. We declined, feeling it unjust of us to eat pizza bought with the tuition furnished by the students from LCC and SOU.

OSPIRG is still on this campus and we cannot figure out why. They were de-funded last year, but their shady funding practices allow them to use money from other PIRGs to maintain their staff. They argued earlier in the meeting that every dime they take from students they return directly back to our campus.

I wonder if they said the same thing to those kids from LCC and SOU?

I bet they’d like a slice of pizza.

  1. Betz says:

    Ask the SOU OSPIRG reps “specifically” where their money goes, or rather, request for an audit. I doubt they will give you any specific answers.

  2. Orev says:

    Down to two campuses, SOU and LCC. SOU has a ballot initiative every year about their funding, so a well organized campaign down there could wipe it out for good. LCC…umm…community college, need I say more?

  3. Gsim says:


    They don’t send money directly to the UO, but it gets here. You’d have to ask them if the student money they receive is sent to their Portland office. After it gets given to Portland administrators it is used in whatever unaccountable way, including sending two paid non-student organizers here to the UO. Since we (the students of the UO) didn’t pay these organizers salaries it is coming from somewhere and the Oregon PRIG doesn’t have very many funding sources.

    This sort of unaccountability and lack of transparency with their financial matters is why they are being dropped by student governments across the state, not just at the UO.

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    SOU OSPIRG says it does not send money to the U of O chapter. If there is contrary evidence it puts both of them in a pickle.

  5. Orev says:

    …and the same reason why the media wants a successful black quarterback is the same reason why the media wanted a black President…

  6. Vincent says:

    Power-hungry egotist is the new black, Miles.

  7. Miles Rost says:

    I’m glad that Lyzi has relayed the good info about the EMU House Committee and it’s work. It shows that at least some good can come from this situation.

    From my previous experience as an EMU Board member, it seems like they are taking up their challenges. That shows at least a little promise.

    And Vincent, do the world a favor and grow some balls already. The “power-hungry” egotist schtick went out in 2008.

  8. RacistTeabagger says:

    I called out OSPIRG in class one day, told them that they didn’t use their money for the students interests. He had a dirty smirk on his face and couldn’t reply. The whole class laughed at him.

  9. nike urbanism duk says:

    If this goes on much longer consider utilizing the old Commentator plan for a raid of the Survival Center. Use of force may be the only thing left in the Commentator “toolkit”.

  10. Orev says:

    Ahh, OSPIGGY. Between them and Diego Hernandez, the shit stain on the fabric of this university just doesn’t seem to go away.

  11. Steve Plunk says:

    As an Alum of SOU and the parent of a current student I have ask the SOU OSPIRG to confirm or deny the sending of funds to the U of O people. Let’s see what the answer might be. Depending on the answer the student newspaper might have an interest.

  12. Lyzi says:

    From what I’ve heard, regarding office space, the EMU House Committee is on it. They will not likely be squatting for much longer. Then again, it is OSPIRG. You never know.

  13. Betz says:

    But in all seriousness …

    If they have been de-funded, how are they still holding onto their offices in the EMU? Is their a space contract right that they are holding onto?

    To make a comparison … Suppose I am fired from my job. I cannot simply find an empty cube or desk in that building, and just set up shop, using the copier, fax machine, coffee machine, to continue job searching. Given the office is big enough, I might go on un-noticed for a little while … but eventually, someone will see me and say “WTF are you doing here?”

    So really … WTF are they still doing there? Aren’t you going to submit an eviction notice like Miles suggests?

  14. Vincent says:

    Well, since I’m so predictable, I’m going to try to do something outside-the-box…

    So, new rule: every time someone from your IP makes some empty threat or says anything stupid, your IP gets banned!

  15. Miles Rost says:

    Because getting your hackles up is much more fun, Vincent.

    You’re easy to predict and easier to rile up.

  16. Vincent says:

    I love how Miles always resorts to this ridiculous, chest-thumping “OMG BEAT THEM UP” puffery.

    Why don’t you just go fuck off to Japan already, or whatever?

  17. Miles Rost says:

    Hmmm…sounds like there needs to be an eviction notice put forth.

    Get on the EMU Board and Dusty Miller to get them ousted and force them off campus. Then, once they are off-campus, beat the living snot out of each of them.

  18. D-Unit says:

    Good work men! Stick it to those greedy bastards and watch them squirm – make sure they know that every slithery move they make with be under the spotlight of truth from the Oregon Commentator!

  19. nike urbanism duk says:

    Any good corporate zombie group/cult like this will have to be decapitated about eight or nine times before it really dies.

  20. CJ says:

    I suppose my clean-shaven head, button down shirt, Italian wool coat and wingtip shoes put me a little out of place in Suite 1, so I responded with,

  21. C.T. Behemoth says:

    It’s obvious why they’re still here.

    They want their money.

    It’s kind of like when Mossadegh nationalized Iran and Britain got all uppity about how Iran was taking “their” oil. Hopefully, the parallels end there.

  22. Ossie says:

    Good piece here. Keep this on file to give to the budgeting committees when OSPIRG applies for student money again this year, assuming they will.

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