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Archive for the 'OSPIRG' Category

Elections Board: OSPIRG, Rousseau violate ASUO elections rules

April 7th, 2010 by D

In decisions handed down today, the ASUO Elections Board has decided that the OSPIRG and Amelie Rousseau campaigns have violated some–but not all–of the highlighted rules filed in grievances by Tony Mecum last week.

In the case of OSPIRG, it was decided that the only rule they violated was Rule 6.8 which states, “No individual may disrupt University class time to promote or oppose a candidacy or ballot measure.” Their messages on classroom chalkboards violated this rule. The final decision, according to the Elections Board, was as such:

The Respondent’s actions were designed to influence the students in the classroom after Respondent had left. While the Respondent was not present, the Elections Board feels that the Respondent’s actions disrupted the class in order to promote a ballot measure and finds Respondent in violation of Election Rule 6.8

The Elections Board finds the Respondent in violation of Election Rule 6.8 and, pursuant to Election Rule 7.6, the Respondent shall issue a formal statement of apology to campus media.

As for the Rousseau campaign and Amelie’s personal use of the ASUO office copier for campaign purposes. The Elections Board decided that Rousseau violated Rule 6.10, but had taken proper steps to rectify the situation, and a lighter punishment was given:

The Elections Board finds that the Respondent’s actions are in violation of Election Rule 6.10. Due to limited scope and impact of the violation on elections, as well as the actions taken to rectify the situation before the grievance was filed, the Respondent shall not be removed from the Elections ballot. As the Elections Board feels that a formal letter of apology is a necessary part of any resolution to this violation, the Respondent shall issue a formal statement of apology to campus media, which shall include the apology and any steps taken to resolve the matter.

For OSPIRG, I find it hard to believe that the Elections Board did not find them in violation of Rule 2.2 (“The educational atmosphere of the University shall not be compromised by anyone involved in the election process.”) It almost seems that if they violated Rule 6.8 in that specific way, that 2.2 is therefore implied.

Rousseau’s punishment, however, I wholeheatedly disagree with. I find it despicable and downright ill-willed for her to have used those copiers. Rousseau works in the ASUO office, and since winter term those pink signs that say “Campaign Free Zone” have been on the outside of her office. Every single day she went to work and saw those signs, and yet she still decided to blatantly violate rules she was fully aware of.

It’s not like the ASUO, or their elections process, has ever had any integrity. But you couldn’t ask for it to get any lower. I’ll be expecting those apologies in my inbox shortly.

Let the games begin: OSPIRG, Rousseau to see grievances filed

March 29th, 2010 by D

Tony Mecum just e-mailed us and informed us that he will be filing against OSPIRG and Amelie Rousseau, respectively. For OSPIRG, the grievance centers around the fact that there was pro-OSPIRG messages written on chalkboards all over campus (see above).

For Rousseau, it centers around her misuse of ASUO office space to print campaign materials.

For OSPIRG, Mecum’s suggested punishment is that they not be able to campaign on campus for 24 hours. For Rousseau, Mecum suggests removing her from the ballot entirely. This would seem egregious except for the fact that a pink “no campainging” sign has been on the ASUO office for months–that’s the place Rousseau works by the way–and her “accidental” breaking of the rules seems rather blatant.

I saw one of those messages on the chalkboard in Lillis 282 today. I did the honorable thing, and changed it say say “Vote NO on OSPIRG.”

After all, fair’s fair.

Anti-OSPIRG rally tomorrow

March 29th, 2010 by D

The Reality Check campaign (blue shirts) will be hosting an anti-OSPIRG rally tomorrow in the EMU Amphitheater at noon. I’ve already been told by one student that the 3 kids they interacted with, who were wearing CCC shirts (red shirts) and lobbying kids to support OSPIRG were not, in fact, even students. With the fact that Amelie Rousseau has violated ASUO campaign rules already, it looks like things are beginning to get into full mcdisasterfuck mode. I look forward to grievances being filed.

Here’s the press release:

Tuesday March 30th
12:00 PM EMU Amphitheater
Rally against OSPIRG

The Reality Check campaign will be hosting a one hour rally against special interest group OSPIRG’s request for a budget. The event will consist of information on why OSPIRG should not receive funding, as well as a display of just how much money is going off campus. Join us as we fight the embedded interests of the ASUO that for years have been lobbying and mishandling your hard earned money.
For questions contact Jeremy Cabalona, campaign manager for Reality Check

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.

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?


OC on KWVA 88.1

February 19th, 2010 by D

I’ve been invited to talk about OSPIRG on KWVA 88.1 campus radio later tonight. The downside? Robert D’Andrea will be part of the guests as well.

Tune in tonight to 88.1 or listen from iTunes at 6:30PM.

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.


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.


ASUO Executive asks ACFC to fund OSPIRG

February 10th, 2010 by D

The ASUO Executive has issued a letter asking the ASUO’s Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee to partially fund OSPIRG, starting “incrementally” for the next few years. The Executive did not suggest an appropriate amount of funding for OSPIRG only that they, “will be advocating for a dialogue that hopefully ends in partial funding for them this year, with incremental increases over time,” according to the Executive’s communications director Curtis Haley.

In part, the letter says, “Ultimately, a strong majority of staff members agreed that OSPIRG’s presence on campus is a benefit to student and deserves our financial support.” Understanding the politics of most of the members of the Executive, this statement isn’t very surprising. What is surprising is that the Executive made mention of fiscal responsibility concerning the issue of OSPIRG saying they were, “aware of some of the concerns that some student have voiced about OSPIRG’s funding model.” Their reasoning for OSPIRG being a financially responsible decision?

“We understand the importance of spending student dollars wisely, and believe that an incremental funding increase will allow OSPIRG to maintain its presence on campus while still demonstrating that their contributions and energy are sustainable in the long-term.”

Of course, earlier this year when the idea of funding OSPIRG was on the table, the question of fiscal responsibility was the key issue. ACFC member Alex McCafferty was quoted as saying the ASUO didn’t have enough money for OSPIRG anyways, “it’s tight and isn’t conducive to adding a budget of that magnitude.”


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:


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].


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.


Thanks for Change OSPRIG

February 2nd, 2010 by Drew Cattermole

We found a little note under our door yesterday night from OSPIRG  & OSPIRG President Charles Denson. It was a envelope containing $1.75 and a note on the back of a Haiti fundraiser flyer. Thanks OSPIRG and  Charles for the laugh and cup of coffee! However we have 25 staffers who all want $1.66,  and also some alumni in Portland and Salem also want $1.66 to be sent to them off campus. I’m positive someone in OSPIRG knows how to send money to people off campus.

OSPIRG to seek funding via ballot measure

February 1st, 2010 by D

OSPIRG President Charles Denson

The ASUO Constitutional Court decided to approve a ballot initiative allowing OSPIRG to refund themselves through popular election this Spring. What that means is that if the ballot passes, it acts as a “mentionable” note to the ASUO–essentially the same as a Senate resolution. It would be non-binding, meaning the ASUO doesn’t actually have to fund OSPIRG.

Still, it’s rather scary how OSPIRG is essentially trying to slip in through the back door, funding-wise. Our elected student government, for two years, has refused to fund the organization on the basis that too much student money goes off campus. In case you missed it, here’s a breakdown of where your money would go if OSPIRG returned to campus:

Budget requested: $117,000

Amount of budget to go off campus: $103,579

The scary part of the whole ordeal is the reckless attitude the OSPIRG members have towards student funds. The scariest part of a meeting Guy Simmons and I attended in October was when one OSPIRG staffer said of the organization’s funding, “It’s only like, a $1.66 to every student on campus. I mean, $1.66 isn’t that much.”

Above is a picture of OSPIRG chapter president Charles Denson. He’s around the EMU a lot. I encourage you to ask him for $1.66 every time you see him. Then we’ll see how much $1.66 is to him.

The OSPIRG initiative asks the question, “Should the ASUO fund the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) at a level that allows OSPIRG to hire professional staff to advocate on behalf of students locally, statewide, and nationally in places like the State Legislature and Congress?”

The answer is no.

Dusty Miller, you have a call on line 3

January 15th, 2010 by D

A few months ago OSPIRG was supposed to move out of its office down in the Survival Center. By Thanksgiving, in fact. Further, EMU Director Dusty Miller told me that OSPIRG was no longer to do anymore official business inside its former office as it is no longer a student group.

Needless to say, I figured (as did everyone else) that this wouldn’t stop OSPIRG from using the Survival Center as their de facto office anyways. No, instead they would probably just keep meeting down there. In fact they aren’t even shy about it. Their twitter feed today read:

“URGENT!!! I need everyone in OSPIRG to meet in the Survival Center today to input the voter pledge cards onto a spreadsheet! We’ll make it a DATABASE-PARTY! 5:30 in the Survival Center!”

As the ASUO Controllers office is across from the Survival Center, I do frequent that part of the building and I have indeed seen OSPIRG’s members lurking around the EMU. What is worrying to me is their apparent usage of the Survival Center despite University orders not to do so.

Of course, I’m sure there will be responses like “it wasn’t official business” or “we were invited to use the space by the Insurgent” or some other tedious, transparent lie.

No one’s fooled.

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.