OSPIRG in budget battle once again

OSPIRG was the first student group to be zero-funded by the Student Fee Committee in the second round of the 2005-06 budget deliberations.

The committee recommended a budget of $40,000, a sum Portland State’s chapter of the Oregon Student Public Interest Group (OSPIRG) says is too little for the group to sustain itself. The group initially requested $125,135 of the $7 million student fee pot from the committee.

The group has been zero-funded several years in a row, with the committee each time recommending a budget far less than the one proposed by the group. Still, yesterday’s announcement was met with disappointment and tears.

"I am dumbfounded," Amy Conway, OSPIRG textbook coordinator said. "We’ve done everything they told us to, as a student group on campus."

"I think it’s very disappointing," campus coordinator Meredith Small said. "There is no justification for being zero-funded."

They plan to appeal for a larger budget. Small says the committee wants them to come back with a budget that contains "only PSU-specific costs" and that is "itemized by campaign."

"[Committee members opposed to funding OSPIRG at a higher lever] haven’t seen much of an increase in the amount of work they’ve done on campus," Earll said. She said that, among other concerns, the committee felt that this perceived lack of activity warranted a budget recommendation of $40,000.

Other groups that were zero-funded in the last round of deliberations are unclear about how to move forward with their appeals. Adolfo Garza-Cano, vice president of MEChA, was unaware that his group had been zero-funded until yesterday.

He received an email that stated that the group, which had requested over $40,000, had received $28,000 and that "no action further action" was needed to receive the funds. At the end of the email, however, it read that the group had been allocated $0 and that the budget needed to be adjusted.

"It wasn’t very clear," Garza-Cano said. "I didn’t know how much exactly I should ask for. I don’t know what to appeal. They are basically saying ‘redo your whole budget.’"

MEChA’s budget last year was $25,000. They asked for an increase, Garza-Cano said, to fund projects such as a co-sponsorship of the Northwest Leadership Conference and a program to encourage Latino high school students to attend college.

These budget items contributed to the zero-funding, Garza-Cano said, because the committee feels that funding should stay on campus. Though the budget he requested was much higher than last year, he says he requested what the group needed. "This is something that Portland State should be doing to attract more diversity."

Murad Pirani of the Indian Student Association (ISA) was also unclear about the status of his group’s budget until recently. He says the email sent by Earll concerning his budget "did not clear things up at all."

The ISA requested nearly $26,000 and was zero-funded with a recommendation of $12,000. The committee questioned why the group needed so much funding, Pirani said, and denied funding for T-shirts and a sound system for the ISA’s annual event on the Portland Spirit. Pirani says the group is growing, with about 130 active members and around 350 registered members.

He is not sure what zero-funding means, is not sure how to appeal, and does not know "what they expect from us."

In the past, the committee has set aside a reserve for groups that have taken no action to appeal their zero-funding, usually for the amount they recommended. When a group doesn’t appeal, however, Earll said, "it’s up to the committee what to do."