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Archive for the 'Fiscal Responsibility' Category

No Volunteers

March 1st, 2010 by D

I read a really terrible letter to the editor this morning from a pro-OSPIRG supporter. Anne Ward is the author of the letter, and tries to refute the claims that “saving the world” isn’t a good use of student tax money.

“Why can’t $1.90 go to “saving the world,” if that’s what a significant portion of students desire?”

Of course, no one has shown any proof that paying that $1.90 is something that a majority of students desire. You could even argue (although methodologically it may be subject to questioning) that the majority of students are against OSPIRG based on the votes of their elected representatives in the ASUO.

In the “significant portion of students” I am sure that Ward is referencing the petition signatures that OSPIRG has gathered in the last few months. Of course, such signatures are subject to scrutiny, as Sen. Demic Tipitino remarked at the last ACFC meeting for OSPIRG, “I watched one of your petition gatherers one day. I saw her fill up an entire side of a sheet of signatures without once turning it over to the other side so that the people signing it could read what they were signing.”

Ward goes on to “inform” students of the changes OSPIRG has made in their lives.

The accomplishments OSPIRG has been able to achieve for students are incredible. They’ve signed over 2,000 faculty across the country to commit to open source textbooks, and have been lauded by congressmen as leaders in reforming the textbook market.

What Ward didn’t tell the dear students is that only one UO professor has signed up for open source textbooks. But the number “1” looks pretty shitty compared to “2000 across the country.” Here’s where OSPIRG’s arguments get difficult. With all the of the factors, nationally, that go into making textbook prices rise or fall, it’s impossible for OSPIRG to say that they directly influenced it in a manner that is an efficient return on student money. The statement is overly broad and does not take into account the hundreds upon thousands of factors nationally and worldwide that effect such things.

Ward ends her argument saying she’d gladly pay the extra $1.90 for such “good” things to happen. Of course, Ward isn’t pledging her money, but asking 20,000 students to pledge theirs. And here’s where I see the color of many OSPIRG supporters. They want your money. And they want a lot of it. They can’t work with some smaller amount and alter their model at all — they just want the whole thing. That’s the kind of inflexibility — really, the inflexibility of vision — that made it possible for the ACFC to tell OSPIRG “No.” So why not an attitude of “anything can help” or “we will work with what we’ve got”? For that, I only have one answer in the form of an example.

At the first ACFC meeting for OSPIRG back in February, a fiery CJ Ciaramella asked a rather pointed question to the all-OSPIRG crowd, “So OSPIRG does all these great things right? They’re saving the world? And they don’t have any funding, right? So how many of you here today have donated, privately, to OSPIRG?” With a crowd of about 35 pro-OSPIRG people, only 3 people raised their hand–two OSPIRG employees and a Lane student.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” said Ciaramella.

ASUO Senate Recap

February 25th, 2010 by Drew Cattermole

In what was a meeting that could have put any insomniac to sleep, the ASUO was able to get through more actual business than they have in recent weeks. 

  • UO Forensics received funding for their end of the year tournaments. 
  • HKSA received funding for their upcoming Hong Kong Appreciation night event. The menu looks fantastic by the way, I will be attending based on that fact alone. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the ASUO ticketing office. 
  • The Take Back The Tap resolution was passed and will be voted on by the rules committee next senate meeting. 
  • The EMU board came in to to have it’s budget passed. It will cost 4.8 million dollars next year of the ASUO’s budget to maintain the EMU this is up $225,000 from last year’s budget. 
  • Included in the EMU’s budget will be the Bike Loan Program which will receive permanent funding for the first time ever. If you are unfamiliar with the Bike Loan Program it is a program that allows students to rent bikes for a small fee, I believe it is a $60 deposit. Pretty much it’s a free bike for the term if you do not break it or lose it. Great program overall, if you don’t have bike next year I strongly urge you to take part in this program. 
  • PFC came in to present their spending model which was approved. The ASUO lowered the total budgets of the 110 programs by .81%. Fiscal conservatives rejoice! That means they will not have to have repeat PFC sessions to reevaluate budgets, AKA we still have a stripper pole line item. Which will be used in our eventual long term goal of sending a OC member to the Olympics

Overall it was a tame meeting. No out bursts, one silly hat, and a great job the PFC.

Misleading the Masses

February 24th, 2010 by D

There was a letter to the editor in Monday’s Emerald signed by members of the Climate Justice League (Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, Heart!) denouncing the ACFC’s recent decision not to fund OSPIRG. In part, the letter said:

“Although OSPIRG provided all of the materials and information the committee asked for, ACFC never clearly articulated a reason to not fund OSPIRG, except a vague sense of uncertainty.”

Of course, those who have read anything about the ACFC’s decision understand that the ACFC clearly outlined why they decided not to fund OSPIRG. Even more surprising is that many of the signers of the letter — including Sen. Jeremy Blanchard — attended the meeting and heard the ACFC’s reasons in person. A response was printed yesterday, signed by ASUO Senate President Nick Gower and Sen. Demic Tipitino (in addition to many others, including myself) that said:

“The problems with OSPIRG were clearly articulated, and they have been for years. OSPIRG sends student money off campus to pay non-students to lobby for issues that have little relation to the University of Oregon campus. Additionally, OSPIRG’s system is structured in a manner that partial funding would make the organization ineffective and an even greater waste of student dollars.”

Do the Planeteers need this outlined again? Let’s go “bulletpoints” on this one, shall we?

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New Button Added for Sudsy Tees!

February 18th, 2010 by D

Just added a sweet new button for y’all to buy Sudsy Tees from us if you’re not in the direct vicinity. Due to eBay costs and shipping, the price of the shirt is $16.95 when purchased online, but you can use your credit/debit card or Paypal to buy it!

As always, you are also welcome to send us a check for a mere $15, or come down to the office in person and purchase a shirt less the shipping and eBay tax for just $10.

CLICK HERE TO BUY A SUDSY TEE

OSPIRG Zero-Funded… Again

February 18th, 2010 by D

Ryan McCarrell shows the ACFC just what a complete, condescending prick he is.

Last night’s ACFC meeting was another long, boring 3 hour affair in which an all pro-OSPIRG attendance–save for myself and Sen. Demic Tipitino–tried once again to get the ACFC to fund OSPIRG as a contracted group.

The night began with a slip-up by OSPIRG member Tara Celentano. Celentano was trying to answer a question regarding student involvement with OSPIRG when she said, “I joined a month ago and I’ve already met 30 people. When I’m down in the Survival Center, I meet new people from OSPIRG every day.”

ACFC Chair Alexander McCafferty responded with, “I don’t want to be nit picky, but it was my understanding that OSPIRG no longer was allowed to do business in the Survival Center.” Celentano stuttered that she still hung out there, obviously recognizing her mistake. At that point in time, Sen. Tipitino choked on his Fire n’ Spice from laughing.

Things got sticky during public testimony, as Ryan McCarrell (above) got all fireside chatty with the ACFC and pulled his chair right up to the ACFC’s table. The meeting was held in Fenton 110, a classroom that seats probably about 100 people. McCarrell made a complete ass of himself, and in my opinion, was incredibly condescending to the ACFC. McCarrell was eventually told to move back from the table by ACFC Chair McCafferty.

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New Sudsy Tees Available! Just $10

February 15th, 2010 by D

Just got a new batch of Sudsy Tees in. They come in Black, Kelly Green and Royal Blue. Sizes are Med-XL. Price of a tee is just $10!

I’m going to put a button on the website here in the next few days so you can use your Mastercard or Visa  (or Paypal) to buy one. In the meantime, if you want to order one, please send an e-mail to us at:

ocomment@uoregon.edu

61,578 Cups of Coffee

February 12th, 2010 by D

Members of the ACFC listen to presenters during OSPIRG’s hearing.

Yesterday night OSPIRG went in front of the ASUO’s Athletics and Contracts Committee. OSPIRG’s members went through a presentation talking about all the “wonderful, amazing and good-hearted” things OSPIRG does. There were some particularly ridiculous moments. One Lane Community College OSPIRG member (I have no idea why they were there) said during public testimony, “If there was no OSPIRG, there’d be dead whales all over the ocean.” Immediately to my right, CJ Ciaramella had to give him a knock.

Of the people who spoke during the public testimony portion, only three of them were against funding OSPIRG’s current request–Me, Lyzi Diamond and CJ Ciaramella. In part, Diamond’s testimony quoted from a Matt Petryni opinion column that appeared in the Daily Emerald in 2008, “More than two-thirds of its ASUO stipend goes not to campus work, but to staffers in Portland, Ore.”

I also highlighted the point that the issue at hand, as it always has been with OSPIRG, is not whether they do good things. It is merely the proper use of student funding. Further, OSPIRG’s budget accounts for $103,000 to paid employees, $70,047 on non-student, non-campus employees alone. I noted that over 60% of their budget directly says that it does not go to students, and that responsible fiscal oversight by the ASUO was not possible with OSPIRG’s current funding model.

One awkward moment happened immediately after I spoke, as I saw CJ Ciaramella outside, and motioned to him. He didn’t see me, so I walked to the door to go get him. A man, probably in his 50s, stopped my as I walked by. His name is Paul Tanner and he is a student at LCC. He asked me, “Are you leaving?” To which I replied no, I was merely going to get CJ. He then told me that, “Because if you get up there and make a statement like that, you damn well better sit here and listen to what others have to say.”

At that point, I removed his hand from my shoulder and told him, “Don’t ever fucking talk to me like that again.” I got CJ, came back inside, and stopped by Tanner to reiterate how he was to speak to me. By the way, the meeting lasted about 3 hours. After about hour 2, I could no longer find Paul Tanner in the room, and he was indeed gone before the meeting ended. Thanks for staying, Paul.

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OSPIRG, From the Inside

February 4th, 2010 by D

An e-mail between a former OSPIRG employee and last year’s ASUO Executive Sam Dotters-Katz

This morning I came to the office, and one of our staffers gave me a hard copy of an e-mail given to her by a person who wished to remain anonymous. It was an e-mail sent last year to then-ASUO Executive Sam Dotters-Katz by a former staffer at a branch of what I believe is SOUPIRG (The redacted parts, from what I can make out, say “SOU”–Southern Oregon University). I contacted Mr. Dotters-Katz this morning to confirm the legitimacy of the e-mail, which he verified. The e-mail is rather interesting. Here’s the body:

“Sam,

I felt compelled to write you after watching part of the Senate meeting last night, especially the part involving OSPIRG‘s appeal. I am currently a grad student at U of O, but I was an OSPIRG organizer for one term in REDACTED, when I worked at the REDACTED campus.

Toward the end of my term, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable “selling” OSPIRG to REDACTED students, as my job basically required me to do. The main reason was that it became so apparent that the decision-makers in the organization weren’t the students, but were the staff. The OSPIRG board meeting I attended then were essentially shames, where students would read from a script prepared by a staff  member and then ram all staff proposed decisions through.

When our student chapter at REDACTED tried to request a small amount of money for a Hunger and Homeless Benefit, we were subjected to a horrific bureaucracy. To be blunt, the student’s couldn’t even retrieve a portion of their own money [emphasis original].

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The Frauds of Neutral Flags

February 4th, 2010 by D

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.

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Book Fairs, Prisoners and Stipends

January 12th, 2010 by Dane and Kiefer

insurgent

“Rage against the machine, man! Now, where’s my stipend paycheck?”

The Student Insurgent had its PFC meeting tonight, one in which they asked for a mere $23,519. Unfortunately, they had to settle for just $22,222.

There were several crucial moments in the hearing, most of which hovered around the Student Insurgent‘s rather dubious delegation of their funding. The Insurgent admitted to printing only 7 issues last year (actually, they guessed because “no one could remember”. We personally think it was more like 5) on a budget of $21,427 – a whopping $3,061 an issue. They vowed to increase their production this year all the way up to 9 issues, meaning each issue for next year will have a reasonable price tag of just $2,469.

If you’d like a little comparison, the Commentator expects to produce 15 issues this year at an average cost of about $1,500 an issue.

A question was then raised about the conduct at the Anarchist Book Fair in San Francisco. Sen. Alyssa Diamond mentioned a letter from a non-Insurgent staffer that was printed in an issue of the Insurgent last Spring. In the letter, Diamond mentioned that the student had reported “Not attending the fair and that all they did was party”. Abby Bluth, an Insurgent Co-Editor noted that, “It goes against what we are to control what people are doing [at the book fair].”

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New Button to Purchase “By the Barrel”

December 2nd, 2009 by D

bythebarrel

We just added a new button (look to your right) underneath the “Current Issue” button that you can click and be able to purchase a copy of our book By the Barrel: 25 Years of the Oregon Commentator.

Clicking the button takes you to another page that has a short description of the book as well as a picture of the cover and a list of chapters. At the beginning and end of the page there is a link that allows you to purchase a copy of the book with your credit/debit card or with PayPal.

You can also click this link and it will take you to the same place.

For just $10 you get a book that’s hardbound, has a dust jacket and has 24-pages of glossy color in the middle. Increase your money’s utility this holiday season by giving it to us.

The OSPIRG Documents

November 30th, 2009 by D

Below are the three documents we’ve been able to obtain that OSPIRG has turned in: a benchmark memo, a budget packet and their spreadsheet that maps out their entire forecasted budget.

I’m sure all the interested parties will read the documents themselves, but here are the most pertinent bulletpoints that I could find:

  • The budget packet says “OSPIRG is a statewide, student-directed and student funded organization working to engage students in meaningful efforts to address critical social issues and in doing so, fulfill the University’s teaching, research and public service missions.” Unfortunately, that statement directly clashes with the fact that the Budget Packet says (page 23) that $103,579 of the requested $117,000 will be going to mostly non-student organizers and administrators, most of whom will be doing work off-campus.
  • Of the statewide OSPIRG budget of $227,000, the University of Oregon Chapter will be paying a little over 50 percent of that total.

As far as I can tell the budget OSPIRG has requested is much the same as the one that was de-funded a year ago. Indeed, several ASUO Senators and last years ASUO Exec Sam Dotters-Katz have told me that the problem is still with all of that money going off campus.

Looking at their documents it is clear that OSPIRG is still not a campus-centric group, especially when comparing them to organizations like the Emerald, Women’s Center, Rec Center, Health Center etc.

What students want, now more than ever, is a return on their investment. Students want to know that their mandatory tuition and fee money is going towards things they can use directly here on campus, and that their money is being used efficiently.

Unfortunately for OSPIRG, I think the numbers speak for themselves.

Dust in the Wind

October 27th, 2009 by Vincent

The Ol’ Dirty is reporting that OSPIRG has finally been kicked out of the space in the EMU that they’ve been using since being sent packing last year. Not only that, but ASUO Executive Emma Kallaway pointed out that OSPIRG shouldn’t have been there in the first place, since they haven’t been a student group in years:

The Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group was dealt another blow Tuesday when the EMU Board of Directors delivered notice that OSPIRG’s file cabinets have to be cleared from its spot in the east side of the EMU, its professional staff can no longer use incidental fee-funded resources and a recognized student group would soon move in to share quarters with the Survival Center and the Student Insurgent.

The explanation provided was that OSPIRG is no longer a recognized student group and therefore cannot occupy space in the EMU. The inconsistency, as ASUO President Emma Kallaway noted, is that OSPIRG has not been a student group for years. Until July, the ASUO had a contract for membership in the statewide organization. No one ever bothered to mention contracted services should not have been allowed space in the EMU.

Along with OSPIRG’s illegal occupation of the EMU, it seems they’ve been using other University resources such as phone lines and computers that they had no particular right to. That, of course, hasn’t stopped them from being a bunch of ingrates:

The EMU Board says OSPIRG staffers cannot use the phones paid for by the incidental fee. OSPIRG students say they use cell phones because the land line was cut in July. The board says OSPIRG can’t use the computer provided in its former office space; OSPIRG Chair Charles Denson said it was slow anyway.

Sorry the misappropriated computer in question wasn’t up to your standards, Chuck.


Sleeping With the Enemy

October 14th, 2009 by D

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).

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Chip Kelly Writes Check to Aggrieved Fan

September 21st, 2009 by Ian

The jury’s still out on how good of a head coach Chip Kelly is, but if there’s something we now know for sure it’s that he’s a pretty nice guy.

After the Ducks’ disastrous opening night loss to Boise St., Oregon alum and season ticket holder Tony Seminary emailed Kelly to register his disappointment. Attached “in jest” was an invoice for Seminary’s expenses to attend the game totaling $439.

Well, as the superb college football blog Every Day Should Be Saturday (EDSBS) reports, Kelly responded by asking for Seminary’s address and then sending him a check for the full amount:

Chip Kelly Check

Seminary returned the check to Kelly after making a copy, and tells EDSBS “I now know why his kids would run through a wall for that guy, because who does what he did, right? That is simply amazing.”