Walkout against Higher One planned

Several student groups will hold a "Day of Action" Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 12 p.m. in their continuing boycott of Higher One, the Connecticut-based company that will take over Portland State’s financial aid disbursement and ID card system.

The main event will be a walkout, in which students and faculty are encouraged to abandon classes and gather in the Park Blocks between the Smith and Cramer buildings, below PSU President Daniel Bernstine’s office.

There, students will be able to destroy their cards and use the broken pieces to make jewelry, or add the cut-up bits to a collage.

The new cards were mailed out Monday and Tuesday and students are expected to receive them any day.

"We will be letting students know the risks of cutting up their cards," Day of Action organizer Erin Devaney said.

Additional tables will be sponsored by MEChA, Students for Unity, Queers & Allies and OSPIRG. Guest speakers will include Tom Hastings, a PSU professor, and Gary Ruskin of Commercial Alert, a grassroots organization that campaigns against commercialization in public spheres. Students will also have the opportunity to take pictures with a cardboard cutout of Mark Volcheck, CEO of Higher One, Inc.

Similar protests will be held elsewhere in the state.

"This is not just a PSU Day of Action," said Tony Rasmussen, communications director of student government. He said that OSPIRG is coordinating a similar event at Southern Oregon University on the same day. "They [OSPIRG members] see that this hits at the core of a lot of fundamental issues in our education."

The Day of Action is "about privatization," Rasmussen said, saying that the personal information of thousands of students was released to Higher One to facilitate the production of the new cards.

Over 1500 students have pledged to boycott the OneAccount, the checking account feature on the new cards that will give students the option of having a student ID and a debit card in one. At press time, Rasmussen projected that number of pledge boycotters had reached 2,000.

If a large number of students decline the OneAccount feature, Higher One’s deal with PSU will no longer be profitable.

The boycott was implemented nearly a month ago by student government and is the result of several concerns about the new ID program. One was that Portland State struck the deal with Higher One without the input of student government, students, or faculty.

The Higher One web site appeared to be misleadingly designed to encourage students to activate the debit card feature. This issue, as well as a motion to abolish the $0.50 ATM fee, is still being dealt with. Dee Wendler, director of business affairs, hopes to form a committee over Winter Term to discuss changes to the web site.

In a recent letter sent to President Bernstine, ASPSU President Christy Harper said that student government leaders "have begun strategizing our boycott for future years." They plan to continue their efforts for the entirety of the five-year Higher One contract.

Though these issues seem mainly a concern for students, Devaney stresses that the Day of Action is also for faculty. "[They] were excluded just as much as we were."