OSPIRG funding scheme indefensible

Last week representatives of the PSU chapter of Oregon Student Public Interest Group (OSPIRG) attempted to defend a request for $30,000 in additional student fees, which would bring their total request to $150,000 for 2003-2004.

The extra money, according to OSPIRG campus organizer Kari Koch, will help fund the startup of an OSPIRG chapter at Oregon State University (including the $18,500 salary of a professional campus organizer) and pay for a new statewide energy advocate.

We view this request with alarm.

While PSU students are not expected to fund the OSU chapter alone (University of Oregon, Southern Oregon University and Central Oregon University have all been asked to contribute), we cannot support asking students at PSU to pay for services rendered at another university. The fact that the money would not be paid back to the PSU chapter or Portland State’s Student Fee Committee is appalling.

Koch told us that OSU will not extend funding to a student group unless that group has been established on campus for at least a year. According to Cody Martin, OSU’s Educational Activities Committee chairperson, however, once a student group is officially recognized as such (even as a non-funded student group), that group can request funding at any time.

Isaac Magana, the Student Incidental Fee Committee chairperson at Oregon State, agreed, saying that the stipulation is that a group be officially recognized by the university before student fees can be allocated.

If other student groups at Oregon State are asked to go through the quite reasonable process of developing a mission statement, a constitution and clear goals in order to become an official student group, why should OSPIRG be immune?

We suggest OSPIRG organize a volunteer student group, working on local issues that impact students at OSU, until they are approved as an official student group. At that time, the chapter could request OSU student funding to pay for the campus coordinator and future expansion. This process may be slower and less immediately satisfying to OSPIRG’s state office, but it will be far more fair to everyone involved. After all, if OSPIRG is not currently an officially recognized student group at OSU, can we guarantee that the Beavers are willing to support an OSPIRG chapter on their campus at all?

At a time when students are being charged additional surcharges, summer tuition increases and suffering budget cuts, this request is completely inappropriate.