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The Frauds of Neutral Flags

In accordance with the post I published on Feb. 1st, it seems more and more OSPIRG representatives (many of them non-students) are milling around campus, collecting signatures for their upcoming ballot measure, handing out stickers etc. I’ve stood by and heard the pitch to unassuming students and it goes something like this, “Are you a student? Do you want to help get lower textbook prices and tuition? I’m from OSPIRG and we’re trying to get our funding back so we can send students to work on issues important to students here at the UO.”

What they do not volunteer, however, is how their funding is appropriated from our students. That is, unless you’re like our distribution manager, Nicholas Ekblad, who had a conversation with one of the signature gatherers in which the OSPIRG employee gave up asking for his signature once it was evident Ekblad was aware of how their funding worked.

If you want a primer on the OSPIRG situation in general, CJ Ciaramella wrote a great article about it last year. If you want to see how and where OSPIRG is suggesting appropriating their budget, you can read my post from this Summer.

What is concerning about the signature gatherers, however, is their lack of explanation regarding the appropriation of would-be OSPIRG funds. To be honest, the fact that OSPIRG isn’t telling students that $103,000 would go directly off campus seems pretty predatory. Under the premise of “saving students money” OSPIRG wants to recklessly spend over $100k off campus. Of course, there are still some people who believe that the money–for some astounding reason–should go off campus.

Rarely do I ever take note of such comments, but one response to my earlier blog post was absolutely baffling:

Zoe says:

I’m happy for my student fees to go off-campus. Most of the decisions that affect me as a student and as a citizen are made in places like the state legislature and Washington, D.C., so I’m glad OSPIRG staff can represent me there. I’ll definitely be voting YES for OSPIRG.

We already have district and state representatives to represent us on a state and national level–it’s called the Senate and the House (the basic core of our republic). This causes me to back up, quite a bit, and explain the basic premise of the Incidental Fee to students. According to the ASUO website, the Incidental Fee

“The Incidental Fee is a fee paid by every student through their tuition, and helps fund various student programs [emphasis added]. The incidental fee funds programs that promote students cultural and physical development, from student unions to intercollegiate athletics to childcare.”

The emphasis, there, was on student programs. And yes, some students do take part in OSPIRG. That’s why, when they were defunded last year, they were given an option for funding in the $20k range so that students could still participate in OSPIRG activities on campus. OSPIRG declined, and instead submitted a budget request for $117,000.

I made a joke this October that OSPIRG is a Reaganite organization–that their policy of using student funds to send lobbyists that will “help lower textbook prices” is a prime example of trickle-down economics. Unfortunately, just like Reagan’s plan, OSPIRG’s plan is one that is not financially viable.

As for our commenter, “Zoe”, this person–along with, I assume, most people who support OSPIRG–has missed the entire point of the Incidental Fee. It is not to merely support things that may or may not be beneficial to students. It is to support things that are immediately beneficial to students on this campus. When $103,000 goes to pay non-student employees who do not work on this campus, that is a direct violation of the purpose of the Incidental Fee.

Let me put it for students in simple terms. Tuition in this state goes up between 14 and 17 percent every year. In addition to that, every dollar you take out in loans from banks triples if you pay it off according to your payment plan. That means you should be saving every single dollar you can while still maximizing your educational experience. The economy is in dry dock, and the unemployment rate is skyrocketing. You, as a student, should be concerned about every single dollar you borrow.

The contention here is not that lobbying for “lower textbook prices” is a bad thing. It’s strictly a matter of the proper usage of the Incidental Fee, and that OSPIRG’s current request for funds doesn’t meet the necessary requirements for Incidental Fee allocation. For students, I would urge them not to let OSPIRG borrow any of your money. They won’t be paying you back.

  1. Dan says:

    PS. If students wanted to pay for in incidental fee that hired a staff of 20 doing voting registration in minority districts or a staff of 10 doing K-12 outreach on environmentalism, or any number of other off campus things, it would still be a totally legitimate “student program” as long students wanted to fund it.

    The simple fact that the staff are off campus is completely irrelevant to whether it’s a “student program.”

  2. Dan says:

    It’s run by students. You’re betting one version of a story from a former staff person to a simple fact.

    OSPIRG has board meetings run by elected student officials. The end.

  3. Mike says:

    OSPIRG is a statewide organization whose Board of Directors is comprised entirely of students, the same as other student programs that hire professional staff through the incidental fee.

  4. Contextualize says:

    Dan (above) said:
    “As long as students vote for the thing and run the thing, whether it

  5. Dan says:

    Since when does “student programs” = “on campus student programs.”

    As long as students vote for the thing and run the thing, whether it’s on campus or off, it fits that definition of an incidental fee.

  6. Dan Levitan says:

    Not only is OSPIRG not working for the students, but they are violating Federal Tax Law.

    I think it’s time the big guns from the Oregon Attorney General’s office finally got off their butts and started investigating, along with the department of Justice and the Treasury department.

  7. Alex L says:


    you mean “enslave students”

  8. Zoe says:

    “Students,”I directly quoted the ASUO’s mission statement. That’s not a vast stretch or an interpretation of the ASUO’s mission. It is its mission, word for word.

    Herp, since the Incidental Fee is administered and allocated by ASUO, it follows that the fee should fit with ASUO’s mission. Also not a vast stretch. If the fee were administered and allocated by an organization whose mission was to fund programs that have no impact beyond campus, you might have a point. But that’s not the case, and calling me a moron won’t change that.

  9. God Only Knows says:


    Real stupid lady, you are.

    As it stands, your not fit to go to school at UO. Your numbers are probably horrible. Go pump gas, lose a tooth, move to Brownsville, lose another tooth, fill my car up with unleaded only please. Quit college, it was not for you.

  10. Students says:

    The Incidental Fee page says that it is meant to, “helps fund various student programs.”

    $103,000 goes to pay NON-students. That is inherently NOT the intention of the Incidental Fee.

    Zoe you are making vast stretches to complete your interpretation of the ASUO’s mission.

  11. Herp Derp says:

    That would be some great info… If it was from the Incidental Fee page. But that’s from the ASUO government page. Not the same thing. We are talking about the intention of the Incidental Fee. You really are a moron though. Good luck with that.

  12. Zoe says:

    I don’t think I’m the one who doesn’t understand the purpose of the Incidental Fee. As you’ve shown in your quote from the ASUO website, the I-fee exists to help ASUO fund student programs that further ASUO’s mission. The mission statement of the ASUO is below:

    “The ASUO is known as the Associated Students of the University of Oregon and is a non-profit organization funded by the University of Oregon. Its purpose is to provide for the social, cultural, educational and physical development of its members, and for the advancement of their individual and collective interests both within and without the University. The ASUO is the student government and is run by students for students and works on campus, city, state, and federal-level campaigns”

    I don’t see where it says everything it supports must be on campus. Looks to me like it says just the opposite.

  13. Orev says:

    Hmm, a community college and the runt directional school in Hashland. Go figure.

  14. Dane says:

    In the state of Oregon there is Southern Oregon and Lane CC

  15. Orev says:

    Con Court rejected a ballot measure that sought to mandate funding, but accepted another ballot measure that asks “should the ASUO fund OSPIRG.”

    Let’s defeat this again, and show the PIG the way off campus once and for all

  16. C.T. Behemoth says:

    Also, what other PIRG’s out there take student money off campus? Seems worth exploring, if it hasn’t been already. Apologies again if I’m forgetting something.

  17. C.T. Behemoth says:

    I thought so, thanks. So it seems pretty obvious that their budget doesn’t do much for the U of O campus.

    I’m curious, what other funding sources OSPIRG might have. Granted, taking students’ money is probably easier.

  18. Orev says:

    Is it true that Con Court rejected their submission for a ballot initiative in the upcoming election?

  19. Dane says:

    CT they did submit a budget. It was rejected :

  20. C.T. Behemoth says:

    I don’t know why they don’t just submit a line item budget that shows how the $ they’ll get will be spent on campus, for campus. Their refusal to do that, if that’s what’s been happening, seems pretty indicative of their motives for being here. That is, to get money.

  21. JMB says:

    Is it just me, or does the vast majority of OSPIRG’s activity on campus revolve around securing additional funding for OSPIRG (and not just now, but back when they were getting their $100k in student fees as well)? They are like a politician who gets elected and then spends their entire time in office fundraising for their re-election campaign.

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