After two months of negotiations, Portland State’s studentgovernment announced yesterday that they are initiating a boycottof the new ID cards that students will be receiving inNovember.
The new IDs, issued by the company HigherOne, will allowstudents to deposit financial aid money and other funds into achecking account, called a OneAccount, and use their ID card as aMasterCard debit card. HigherOne will also take over thedistribution of all financial aid at PSU.
Since PSU announced the program in September, there has beenincreasing student concern over the university’s agreement withHigherOne. In particular, students were angered that they were notincluded in the development process and that the activation website for the IDs appears designed to push students into activatingthe checking account feature.
“Increasingly, it is clear to me that HigherOne, Inc. andadministrators of PSU intentionally neglect the voice of theclients this program is meant to serve,” said Christy Harper,president of the Associated Students of PSU, in a letter announcingthe boycott.
Over 600 students have already signed a pledge to participate inthe boycott, according to ASPSU Communications Director TonyRasmussen.
ASPSU has already hired three volunteer interns to organize theboycott. While specific tactics have not yet been decided upon,petitioning in the Park Blocks, class discussions, informationalposters and even sit-ins are all possibilities, Rasmussen said.
Because all students must use the cards as their student ID, theboycott will be focused on insuring that HigherOne does not profitfrom their program at PSU, according to Rasmussen.
“We will become an expense, not a profit,” he said.
HigherOne will handle all financial aid disbursement for PSU, sothe boycott has to be carefully targeted so as not to interferewith students receiving their aid. HigherOne only profits ifstudents activate and utilize the OneAccount checking accountfeature, so students participating in the boycott will opt toreceive their financial aid through paper check or electronicdeposit into a personal account.
“We don’t want to recommend any course of action that will causestudents not to receive their financial aid,” Rasmussen said.
Dee Wendler, director of business affairs, said that she wasdisappointed to hear of the boycott.
“We would like them to work with us on this instead ofboycotting it,” she said. “I’m not sure what they hope to achieveexcept a statement against the administration.”
Wendler indicated that she is aware of the students’ concernswith HigherOne and is working with the company to get improvementsto the product implemented.
“As an administrator, I have some leverage in making HigherOneaccountable,” she said.
Rasmussen expects that number to increase as word of the boycottgets out.
Particularly, Rasmussen said he believes students will becomemore active against the cards as they learn about how the issueimpacts them.
“Our number one campaign strategy is honest education. Withhonest education no one will want to activate the OneAccount,” hesaid. “I’ve converted students by giving them just one fact.”