After deliberating for more than an hour and a half, the Student Fee Committee voted to fund OSPIRG at $46,803 Wednesday. The decision drew to a close what has been the most hotly debated funding battle during the annual student fee allocation process.

While the sum is considerably more than the $33,765 that the group received last year, it is far less than the $125,135 the group initially requested. For the past three years representatives of Portland State’s Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) have told the committee that they need over $100,000 in funding to support their campaigns for causes such as lower textbook costs and preserving Oregon forests, but have received far less.

OSPIRG Vice Chair Amy Connolly said that she was very disappointed with the committee’s funding decision.

"We still exist, barely," she said. "It is definitely not sufficient to be a successful organization."

Members the Student Fee Committee has made numerous complaints about OSPIRG’s compliance with the committee’s budgeting guidelines. Among them, the committee questioned whether OSPIRG truly spends its funds on the Portland State campus, and said the group neglected to use Banner, the university’s online budget tracking tool. Throughout this year’s budget process, OSPIRG members have accused the fee committee of considering the group’s budget in a biased manner because the committee has subjected OSPIRG to a much higher degree of scrutiny than other student groups.

However, committee members who have taken issue with the OSPIRG budget have insisted throughout the budgeting process that they would have raised the same concerns with any student group under similar circumstances.

Student Fee Committee member Erin Devaney, who served as the fee committee’s liaison to OSPIRG this year, gave a stern indictment of the committee’s student group funding process at the outset of the final budget deliberation.

The committee "failed to communicate pertinent information to many student groups" about the budgeting process, Devaney said. In particular the committee did not adequately explain concerns to groups about eligibility for funding or meeting committee guidelines until it was too late to address them.

"If there are concerns with whether or not we believe a group is eligible for funding, groups need to know this before the last step in the budget process," she said. As a result, groups were "blindsided by concerns that were not previously addressed" during the committee’s budget deliberations.

Other committee members, however, made it known that they do not share Devaney’s perspective on the committee’s level of communication with student groups.

"Groups should be held accountable about contacting their liaisons when they have questions," committee member Nicole Greco said.

The Student Fee Committee is responsible for allocating over $7 million in student fee money to over 80 student groups as well as campus athletics. After more than a month of budget hearings and deliberations, the committee is scheduled to submit final budget allocations for all groups to the student senate today.


SFC raises fee
The Student Fee Committee voted in a $4 increase to the student incidental fee, assessed by the university each term based on the number of credits a student is taking. The current fee, $131 for a full-time student, has not increased in three years.
If the committee had granted all requested budget increases, the fee would have increased by $6.
The new $135 fee will be implemented next year.

For a moment at the Wednesday meeting, things seemed to be looking up for OSPIRG. A motion proposed by Devaney to fund the group at $87,482, more than double what the group received last year, narrowly failed. Three committee members voted for the motion, three against, with Nicole Greco abstaining. That would be the last time, however, the committee would vote on such a high sum.

Many fee committee members have opposed funding the group at such a high level, arguing that similar campus organizations receive far less money.

"For the size of the organization and the constituency it serves, $40,000 is an adequate level," committee member Kaveh Heravi said Wednesday.

Greco said that she feels positive about the committee’s funding decision because it reflects that the group has "come a long way this year."

"This funding level was not arbitrarily chosen," she said. "It reflects what I feel is an adequate cost for this organization at this time."

Wednesday’s decision ends the deliberation process over OSPIRG’s budget for this year. The group, like all Student Fee Committee funded groups, made an initial budget proposal in January. During the initial budget deliberations, the fee committee temporarily funded at $0, recommending that the group return with a budget closer to $40,000. OSPIRG appealed, however, for $125,134.

While this year marks the third consecutive year of the fee committee funding OSPIRG at a level far lower than what the group requested, the group intends to remain on campus and continue to try for more funding next year, Connolly said.

"We’re going to fight like hell next year," she said