Do you care about Crater Lake?
This question had been resonating around the EMU since the Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee defunded the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group earlier this month.
Regardless where you stand on the Bybee Vegetation Management project — a project that would create logging roads and clear cuts adjacent to the Crater Lake National Park — what does OSPIRG do?
According to OSPIRG Campus Organizer Lisa Nikodem, in just the past five years OSPIRG has exposed over $500 million in corporate tax subsidies and confronted health insurers to help save $80 million in consumer money.
This year alone Nikodem was proud to announce that OSPIRG had provided campaign training to over 150 first-time volunteers, handed out over 200 Renters’ Rights Guides and created a Do’s and Don’ts of campus banking webpage.
“Students are people who pay taxes, breathe air, drink water, vote, etc., and as such experience the results of our victories in their daily lives,” Nikodem said.
A large issue comes from the group’s organization chart. As part of its structure, OSPIRG has professional advocates who work and live in Salem, Ore.
ASUO Senate Ombudsperson Ben Rudin has argued against OSPIRG because he does not feel that students should be forced to fund the organization through the incidental fee.
“I have no moral issue with (a professional staff) as long as the money is voluntarily given, not put as a condition of enrolling and getting a diploma. It’s about fundamental freedom,” Rudin said. “The fact that I agree with most of what they advocate does not make one iota of difference, legally. The fact that their viewpoints are popular does not make one iota of difference, either. Factoring in either of those is a flagrant violation of viewpoint neutrality.”
OSPIRG Board Member Helena Schlegel disagreed with the defunding of the organization.
“The majority of the members of ACFC don’t support the work that OSPIRG does — fighting to stop global warming, working to alleviate hunger and homelessness, protecting our environment, educating students about their rights, getting big money out of politics,” Schlegel said. “These are issues that extend beyond the boundaries of campus. I am not just a student, I am a citizen too, and I care about what happens to my community.”
Before the ACFC vote to defund OSPIRG, the ASUO Executive offered to move OSPIRG to the Programs Finance Committee, a move that wouldn’t have aligned with OSPIRG’s organizational structure.
“That’s not our problem,” Rudin said. “I think their unwillingness to go the PFC route showed their unreasonableness and was part of why their funding was cut.”