The Portland State University Student Fee Council released its annual budget allocations last week and surprised many student organizations by denying their funding requests.
One such group was the PSU chapter of Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) who requested an extra $30,000 in addition to its current funding of $120,000 from the SFC this year. Chapter leaders were set aback when they learned that not only was their request for additional funds denied, but also their funding had been cut.
“I was stunned,” Katie Wylie, OSPIRG budget manager said. “I can see where they were coming from in not granting our request for the increase, but I’m not sure why the rest of our funding was denied.”
Tracy Earll, chair of the SFC, explained that such a large request caused the council to have some concerns.
“OSPIRG wasn’t alone in asking for a large increase, but when it’s a 25 percent increase, and you’re already getting that much money, it makes us ask some questions,” she said.
When the SFC learned the increase in funds was going to be used to fund a campus organizer for the Oregon State University chapter of OSPIRG and a state energy advocate, they started wondering where OSPIRG’s funding had been going. Soon they learned that, unbeknownst to the council, a similar situation had occurred in the past, with PSU funds going to the Central Oregon Community College chapter of OSPIRG.
“We were thinking, wait a minute, you never told us,” Earll said.
The SFC received negative feedback from students regarding OSPIRG’s request, as well.
“That was a huge concern,” Earll said. “Why would our students pay for a service on their (OSU’s) campus?”
This raised more questions regarding how OSPIRG participates in the PSU community.
“One of the main concerns the SCF addressed is the fact that OSPIRG’s focus isn’t this campus, but the general public,” Earll said. “We needed to examine the guidelines and determine whether or not such an organization can even be student funded.”
OSPIRG campus organizer Kari Koch feels that it is because of their focus on a larger scale that they are valuable to PSU and its students.
“Students are working selflessly to create a better environment in Portland. OSPIRG was created to fight for special interests, and it’s a public interest group. We work for a better Portland and a better Oregon, which in turn make a better PSU,” she said.
Koch explained that it’s necessary for all chapters to receive support in order for OSPIRG to be successful.
“If an organization isn’t growing, it’s dying,” she said. “We’d love to expand our reach. We’re a statewide organization and our voice gets stronger as we increase the number of chapters.”
Concern surrounding OSPIRG’s use of funds isn’t the only reason that they were denied funding. After going through individual group requests, the SFC found there simply wasn’t enough money to comply with every projected budget.
Total budget requests received this year added up to $8 million, $1.3 million more than the current funding allows.
The SFC is trying not to raise student fees, but with the increase in requests and seven new student groups requesting funds, there have been some challenges with the allocation process.
“There were a lot of student groups requesting two to three times their current budgets,” Earll said. “With such large increases we asked, ‘Please rethink and come back.'”
Student organizations that didn’t get the funding they requested will have the opportunity to present their cases again in the SFC appeals process, beginning the first week of February.
OSPIRG will have the opportunity to defend its position on campus and re-evaluate their request.
“We anticipate an appeal,” Earll said. “Hopefully with more information on what they do on campus and regarding why students should pay for their funding.”
Leaders of the PSU OSPIRG chapter have made it clear that in the appeals process they will be asking only for the same amount of funding that they have been receiving for the last three years.
“We have ceased to ask for the extra $30,000,” Koch said. “We didn’t realize when we requested it that it would be such a debate. We’re happy to withdraw and don’t want to put any strain on PSU’s economic situation.”
Wylie is hopeful that the SFC will grant their request in the appeals process, which will be over by Feb. 7.
“I’m confident that the SFC will change their minds,” she said. “OSPIRG is invaluable to the PSU campus.”