OSPIRG access to funds suspended

OSPIRG has lost access to its student fee budget until the group finds a department on campus to act as its home base at Portland State.

OSPIRG has lost access to its student fee budget until the group finds a department on campus to act as its home base at Portland State.

The Student Fee Committee told OSPIRG at a meeting late on Thursday, Oct. 18 that the group must find some kind of PSU-recognized entity to house the organization here. OSPIRG is a research and advocacy group funded in part by Portland State student fees.

Until the group finds a department on campus-which could be anything from the sustainability department to student government–OSPIRG will not be able to access or spend any of the $128,235 it was allocated for this year.

“As of right now, there is no legal way to give the group money,” Amanda Newberg, chair of the Student Fee Committee (SFC), told four members of the Oregon Student Public Research Interest Group (OSPIRG) at Thursday night’s heated meeting.

The SFC cannot allocate any money to OSPIRG because the PSU contracts office and the Oregon Department of Justice have tightened up contract operations on campus, said Aimee Shattuck, director of Student Activities and Leadership Programs (the PSU entity that advises student groups and that previously advised and housed OSPIRG).

For years, OSPIRG has received its entire student fee budget as either one lump sum or as a set of lump sums throughout the year, a process unlike every other student group’s fee allocation. To continue receiving their funding that way, the PSU contracts office is requiring that OSPIRG alter they way it contracts through the university, Shattuck said.

The change would require OSPIRG to sign and file a different kind of contract and be housed under a department at PSU that is recognized by the university, neither of which OSPIRG has done. The SFC told OSPIRG that when the group signs the contract, and finds a department to be housed in, OSPIRG can approach the committee about accessing its funds.

Student Activities and Leadership Programs (SALP) had previously acted as OSPIRG’s home base at PSU, but SALP declared on Oct. 8 that OSPIRG is no longer a student group because PSU students do not determine the mission of the group, and because the group is not led by students, among other reasons. OSPIRG did not meet a larger set of criteria to be a student group and therefore could not be under SALP, according to a SALP memo sent out Oct. 8.

It is still uncertain how OSPIRG will find a department on campus to house them, but SFC members told the group that SFC would be of assistance. Amy Connolly, a student leader with OSPIRG, said she thinks the decisions, and the process by which they are being made, are arbitrary.

“We’re a student-led group that’s being told that we’re not a student group,” Connolly said.

Additional reporting by Norman Dunn