OSPIRG remains … for now

Despite a variety of funding challenges, the PSU chapter of the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) says they will remain on campus this coming year.

Just over six months ago, OSPIRG asked PSU’s Student Fee Committee (SFC) for an increase of $30,000 in its funding. The additional funding was denied by the SFC, as well as OSPIRG’s previous level of funding.

While OSPIRG had previously received $120,000 in student fee money, the SFC cut this down to a conditional $21,000. To receive this money, OSPIRG would have to submit a revised budget and have it approved by the SFC.

According to Katie Wylie, PSU’s OSPIRG chapter chair, the OSPIRG state board has still not voted on whether or not to accept the conditional $21,000, though it has decided to keep PSU’s chapter open.

Wylie predicts OSPIRG will be “as involved as possible on campus. Hopefully next year we will be able to come back in full force.”

Working through hard times is nothing new to this student group. After seeing a sizeable decrease in its funding, OSPIRG attempted to go through the referendum process during the 2003 ASPSU elections, held this last spring.

This process required OSPIRG to draft a ballot measure that would increase student fees by $1.99 per term while also overturning the SFC’s decision. The language of the measure had to be approved by the Evaluation and Constitutional Review Committee.

Once OSPIRG obtained this approval, it was then required to collect signatures from at least 10 percent of the student population, or 2,500 signatures.

Meeting all of these requirements, OSPIRG’s measure was placed on the ballot where students voted and passed it.

While seeming like a triumph for OSPIRG, the referendum still had a few more stops on its road to implementation.

The ASPSU student senate passed the SFC budget with the recommendation that the OSPIRG referendum be included. This was passed on to PSU President Daniel Bernstine, who eventually denied the recommendation and vetoed the referendum.

“In general, it’s a blow to student rights that the referendum process was denied,” Wylie said.

However, Wylie acknowledged that Bernstine would have been going against advice from PSU’s Attorney General Kelly Gablicks if he had approved the referendum.

Gablicks supported a ruling from the Oregon Department of Justice, which deemed the referendum process unconstitutional.

After months of wondering what will come of its funding, OSPIRG is trying to move ahead. Campaigns for the coming year, including working for cheaper textbooks and cleaning up the Willamette River, are shaping up, according to OSPIRG.

Wylie is not only anticipating another year with OSPIRG, but also one with the SFC. She was elected to serve on the SFC for the 2003-04 year.

She sees her experiences over the past few months as a means to provide “a lot greater understanding of the process” of the SFC.