Senate Amends Financial Charter

This is the first of a two-part series addressing the removal of Article XI from the Student Financial Charter and the sub- sequent elimination of Ohio Public Research Group’s roughly $50,000 yearly budget.

Rosemary Boeglin, News Editor

This week the process of removing Article XI, the special funding mechanism, from the Student Financial Charter has moved into its final stages. If approved at next month’s General Faculty meeting, the existing Article XI will be replaced by a capital investment fund accessible to student organizations seeking funds for large investment purchases.

The existing budgetary loophole allows for student organizations approved under Article XI to gain direct access to student funds without the oversight of the Student Financial Committee. The special funding mechanism allocates a consistent dollar amount to the organization from term bills each semester and in order to receive these funds organizations under this structure are only required to provide an opt-out form via OCMR mailboxes once per semester.

Last semester, SFC found OPIRG in violation of their charter by failing to place forms in the mailboxes of students giving them the option to opt-out of the otherwise automatic $8 donation. In response, SFC withheld funds from OPIRG for this semester.

“Article XI has been under review by Student Finance Committee because once they found out that PIRG was in kind of gross violation of the charter this year, that brought some problems of the system to the attention of the Student Finance Committee,” said Joe Condon, College senior and Student Senator.

According to members of Student Senate, OPIRG is the only student organization in the history of the College that has received its funding in this way, which can be attributed to the exceedingly difficult process by which student organizations can qualify to receive funding under Article XI.

“My understanding is that in the ’70s … this funding structure was set up for PIRG specifically.

It was framed as [something] any organization can use, but it was set up for PIRG. I’m unclear if they ever went through the initial process [to receive the funding], which is really lengthy,” said College senior Charlotte Landes, Student Senator and co-chair of SFC.

In fact, the roughly $50,000 a year that Oberlin students donate to OPIRG through the special funding mechanism comprises essentially the entire state organization’s operating budget, as Oberlin’s chapter is the only OPIRG chapter left in the state of Ohio and has been for over a decade.

Initially, the student board of OPIRG petitioned the Student Life Committee to reverse the decision of Student Senate. According to Landes, College alumni echoed these calls, directing their concern to David Kamitsuka, chair of the Student Life Committee.

Landes said, “The Student Life Committee was being pressured by OPIRG students, OPIRG alumni [and] the campus organizer. It was fairly intense because the current national leader of OPIRG is an Obie, and so there was a lot of attention from the national organization on keeping this money.”

According to Kamitsuka, the committee is primarily concerned with overseeing the process by which these decisions are made, facilitating discussion and ensuring voices are heard.

“We focused on student concerns and alumni concerns. That was our focus, very intentionally so. And I think it’s an exaggeration to say that OPIRG on a national level had any influence,” Kamitsuka said.

OPIRG initially petitioned the Student Life Committee to overturn the decision made by SFC and Student Senate to remove Article XI from the charter.

“But then in the end the current student leadership of OPIRG decided they didn’t really want a faculty committee to overturn student government’s decision on how [it] should govern itself,” Landes said.

Aaron Appel, College first-year and chair of Oberlin’s chapter of OPIRG, assumed his position after the previous OPIRG board collectively quit their positions earlier this semester. The new board, comprised entirely of first-years, joined the conversation regarding the charter amendment after SFC had already presented their revisions to Student Senate.

“Ideologically, the new board felt there’s a lot of problems. This system’s been in place since the ’70s — it should be updated,” Appel said. “We wanted to reason through to see how we could make this more equitable.”

Appel said the current board of OPIRG was uncomfortable with the means by which OPIRG collects its funds, relying solely on Oberlin college students and national PIRG for its operating budget.

“In the end, it made little sense to fight for this system if we were not going to use it fairly,” Appel said. “OPIRG hasn’t demonstrated that it deserves to be funded under such a process, but perhaps someday we’ll earn back our stripes. It wasn’t worth it to continue petitioning the [Student Life Committee] if we lost our base.”