Tension ran high at the first forum on Portland State’s newstudent ID/debit cards yesterday, with accusations fromrepresentatives of student government of lies, misinformation andcoercion.
The new student IDs will be distributed by the HigherOne companybeginning in November. Among other features, students will haveaccess to a checking account with their ID and use their ID as aMasterCard debit card.
At the forum, HigherOne CFO and Chairman Mark Volcheck and PSUadministrators Dee Wendler, director of business affairs, and DougSamuels, vice provost of student affairs, took control of shapingthe dialogue about HigherOne at PSU.
Volcheck began with a brief presentation of the benefits thatthe HigherOne program will have for PSU then opened the floor toquestions. Natalee Webb, a coordinator for the PSU conflictresolution program, moderated the forum and set ground rules forquestioning.
In response to a student query regarding what kind of revenuePSU would be gaining, Wendler denied that PSU would be obtainingany.
“Oh my God, you are full of shit!” cried Christy Harper,president of the Associated Students of PSU in response. She wenton to cite part of the contract between PSU and HigherOne in whichthe financial benefits to PSU are mentioned.
Wendler replied that Harper was looking at cost savings, notrevenue.
Perhaps the most salient concern raised by ASPSU and otherstudent groups about the situation with HigherOne is the apparentlack of student involvement in the process. Wendler responded thatshe had sent out requests for input in the request for proposalprocess to several student groups through student affairs.
“How can you stand up there and consider yourself to beethical?” asked Ryan Klute, vice president of ASPSU, going on toaccuse Wendler of overtly lying to students at the forum.
Order was hardly maintained throughout the questioning session,with students interrupting the process with passionate concernsabout HigherOne.
Jody Ramey, former co-coordinator of the Students withDisabilities Union, wanted to know how PSU was planning to makesure that students with special visual needs or those with learningdisabilities would be able to get all of the information they needabout the HigherOne card.
Further, several students voiced concerns that HigherOne offersinformation in no other language than English.
“The University will do everything in its power to accommodatestudents who speak other languages, who are from other backgroundsand students with disabilities,” Samuels firmly replied to suchconcerns.
The forum was intended to end with an automated presentationfrom HigherOne regarding the activation of the cards viaHigherOne’s web site, but the company could not go through with thepresentation due to technical difficulties.
Harper then gave a presentation of her own, activating a mockcard on a laptop hooked up to a projector. Her presentation wasintended to illustrate the confusion involved in card activation,further accusing PSU and HigherOne of coercing students into usingthe company’s banking services via their web site.
After the forum was formally over, ASPSU expressed several otherconcerns about the forum itself.
“Our first reaction was that this was worse than we thought itcould be,” Harper said, “the way that they were answering questionsand dodging them. It’s frustrating.”
“We want students to make their own choice,” said TonyRasmussen, communications director for ASPSU.