Members from Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) faced another budgetary setback when the Evaluation and Constitutional Review Committee (E&CR) failed to approve the group’s referendum Tuesday afternoon for the upcoming ASPSU elections.
The referendum would ask Portland State students to vote for or against an overturning of the Student Fee Committee’s (SFC) decision to zero fund OSPIRG.
“I think it’s an incredibly fair process to ask the students what they want,” Kari Koch, OSPIRG campus organizer, said.
However, it was clear that SFC Chair Tracy Earll did not approve of OSPIRG’s referendum. She expressed concern that OSPIRG was trying to undermine the democratic process that involved the SFC.
There were unresolved issues questioning whether or not referendums are acceptable in this case. According to the E&CR constitution, they are. However, Earll presented material that showed the Supreme Court had ruled otherwise several years ago.
It was not clear to anyone whether the Supreme Court’s ruling took precedence over the E&CR constitution. The specifics about the ruling were also unclear. Because of this, the E&CR opted not to take the ruling into consideration.
However, E&CR members still expressed concern over the specific wording OSPIRG had used in the referendum.
“We would do anything we can to get this pushed through today,” Koch said, with a hint of desperation creeping into her voice. She went on to explain the pressing deadlines OSPIRG is facing with this issue.
Once the referendum is approved by the E&CR, OSPIRG must collect petitions from at least 10 percent of the student population by next Thursday, Feb. 20. If they cannot accomplish this, the question of whether or not to overturn the SFC’s ruling will not appear on the March ballot.
OSPIRG cannot begin petitioning until the referendum has been approved by the E&CR. Because the E&CR has not yet done so, OSPIRG members are nervous that they will not be able to collect enough petitions in time for the Feb. 20 deadline.
E&CR member Annie Stewart asked to give the present OSPIRG members five minutes in which they would reword their referendum to read more satisfactorily.
“We have to be willing to work together on this,” E&CR Chair Amara Marino said, supporting Stewart’s suggestion.
Even after the five-minute rewording, the E&CR still had issues with the specificity of the referendum. Because of this, they voted to put the item on the agenda for their next meeting, this Saturday, to give OSPIRG ample time for a proper rewrite.
Koch believes they were denied funding by the SFC because most of OSPIRG’s work is done for the public community, rather than the student community at PSU.
Despite her worries about having an “incredibly short timeline,” she did seem hopeful that the student population would support OSPIRG if their referendum makes it onto the ballot.
“Students have always shown support for OSPIRG,” she said.