The Oregon Student Association has lost access to Portland State money next year until it agrees to a proposal that would drastically alter the organization, the Student Fee Committee told OSA Thursday. The proposal would give greater power to Oregon’s largest universities–including PSU–and diminish smaller schools’ power within the organization. The proposal, which was drafted last week by PSU student body President Rudy Soto and his senior policy adviser Ryan Klute, would add a new board to OSA. Klute is also OSA vice-chair.
The Oregon Student Association has lost access to Portland State money next year until it agrees to a proposal that would drastically alter the organization, the Student Fee Committee told OSA Thursday.
The proposal would give greater power to Oregon’s largest universities–including PSU–and diminish smaller schools’ power within the organization. The proposal, which was drafted last week by PSU student body President Rudy Soto and his senior policy adviser Ryan Klute, would add a new board to OSA. Klute is also OSA vice-chair.
The new board would have power to set membership dues, pick lobby issues and elect officers to the OSA board of directors. Larger schools would have greater voting power within OSA, a group that primarily focuses on lobbying for student interests.
The Student Fee Committee is demanding that OSA approve the proposal in order to receive its almost $100,000 in funding from Portland State next year. The SFC made the decision to put the money in the SFC’s designated reserve fund quickly and with little discussion, where it will wait for OSA’s decision about the proposal.
“How will this affect students across the state?” asked SFC member Kip Seulean about the SFC’s decision.
“It won’t,” said SFC Chair Amanda Newberg. “It won’t have any effect on students, really.”
OSA, which lobbies for student issues to the Oregon legislature every other year, was widely heralded in 2007 for helping obtain hundreds of millions more in funding for higher education in Oregon.
On Wednesday, OSA Chair Emily McLain told the Vanguard that she didn’t think the proposal would be accepted because most of the board disagreed with it.
The OSA board has not met since the proposal was presented last week. OSA members felt the decision was so important they wanted to discuss it in depth at their Feb. 1 meeting, McLain said on Thursday. The SFC ruling has hurt the usual decision-making process of the multi-school OSA board, she said.
“It’s a really big decision and it’s something that really requires discussion from all of the stakeholders,” she said. “What this does is take away the opportunity to practice the democratic process that we hold as very important.”
Newberg said the SFC has the right to make this decision.
“I think the SFC has a responsibility and the authority to decide where any student fees go,” Newberg said. “So I feel this is most certainly under their purview.”
The SFC passed the motion unanimously. As the SFC moved on to discuss other items on the agenda, former student body Vice President Jesse Bufton stood up, gathered his things and walked out.
“I can’t believe you all just did that,” he said. “You have no idea how OSA works. That’s really sad.” SFC member Karin Zimmer giggled as he left the room.
Afterward, Bufton said he was frustrated with what he sees as the SFC’s apparent lack of knowledge on the workings of OSA.
“They’re making decisions that are going to affect students all across the state of Oregon, and I don’t think they even realize that,” Bufton said. “They weren’t asking questions about the OSA’s structure and decision-making process.”
Shortly after the SFC meeting adjourned, Newberg said ASPSU wants a louder voice in OSA decisions.
“The proposal is just to recognize the amount that PSU pays and wanting the organization to be more equitable–to recognize that some schools pay more and that their voice should be heard more.”
PSU student body President Soto, who drafted the proposal, appointed all of the SFC members except for Newberg after the elected officers left their positions earlier this year.
Soto told the Vanguard Thursday night that he asked the SFC to make this decision.
He said he’s certain that OSA will give in to the proposal, which was met with criticism from some OSA board members.
“I think OSA needs PSU and that PSU benefits from the work of OSA,” he said. “And so I think that ultimately it will be worked out to where PSU remains part of OSA.”
OSA Executive Director Tamara Henderson would not comment specifically on the decision, but said, “Of course we want to make sure PSU’s needs are met just like any of our other campuses.”
��[Editor’s note: Ryan Klute writes a column in the Arts and Culture section for the Vanguard.]