Senate Votes to Reform Article XI

Matthew Benenson, Staff Writer

Student Senate unanimously voted to pass a resolution last Sunday urging the Student Financial Committee to “amend or remove Article XI of the Student Financial Charter in a manner that will increase its transparency and the judiciousness with which it is used to allocate student monies.”

Article XI deals with the Alternate Student Funding mechanism, which allows chartered student groups to raise money through a student fee if they submit a petition signed by at least 51 percent of the student body on campus every two years. Two chartered groups on Oberlin’s campus utilize this mechanism: the Green EDGE Fund draws a $20 fee from each student and Ohio Public Interest Research Group draws $8.

According to College senior and Senate Liason A.D. Hogan, OPRIG neglected to provide students with the option to opt out of the fee in the first month of school. OPRIG’s charter and Article XI specify that students must be given the option to have their fee refunded within the first month of the semester, an option that had previously been provided to students through their OCMR. The findings of the SFC referendum released in November showed that only 13 percent of the student body was aware of this fee and that it could be refunded, leading to the perception of an attempt by OPIRG to keep students unaware of the fee.

“The education component of what OPIRG needs to provide to students is not being met,” said Hogan. “Without their willingness to provide information, there is no way to hold them accountable.”

According to Hogan, the decision came after members of Senate and the SFC met with OPIRG and asked that OPIRG send an e-mail allowing students to opt out of the fee electronically, and OPIRG turned down this request. Hogan said that this left Senate with no other option but to pass the resolution.

“We offered options to OPIRG to get out of all this, and they declined,” they said. “We had to stand up for the student body as representatives and do what we felt was right.”

However, College first-year and OPIRG Chair Jordan Buller-Doll said there was no blatant attempt to keep the information from students, adding that as Chair she was in favor of an electronic opt-out for students.

“We think this funding structure is great because the students get an opportunity by choice to fund outside organizations,” she said. “The problem we’re both seeing is transparency. We need to figure out how students can know about this fee. If the best way to do that is through e-mail, I’m all for it.”

Buller-Doll added that OPIRG was working constantly to raise the profile of the group and to help students learn about the fee.

“We really want to earn this $8 that the student body gives to us. We can do great things, but we first have to prove to that student body we can be responsible and get things done.”

Oberlin students had mixed feelings about the activities of OPIRG.

“I have no problem with the mission statement of [O]PIRG,” said double-degree senior Josh Rosner, who is involved with OC Democrats and co-chair of the Oberlin Jazz Society. “I think it is run ineffectively by [a] staff that disregards the priorities of students at Oberlin.”

Other students equated this instance to an overall lack of transparency from OPIRG.

“I want to know how my money is being spent because I consent to the fee,” said Conservatory senior Aaron Plourde. “What if they’re paying people to advocate for issues I don’t agree with and I have no idea? I have a real problem with that.”

If the SFC accepts Senate’s resolution and decides to amend their charter, they would have to be re-chartered through the Student Union Board, a process that could stretch into next spring.