ODE story on EMU ignores manipulation history

11/18/2013: Last summer the Oregonian’s Betsy Hammond wrote a revealing story on the shenanigans of UO VP Robin Holmes and the use of student money to manipulate the student vote on the EMU expansion:

University of Oregon leaders admit they made a tactical error when they hired a top political firm that advised them to use hard-sell techniques and $30,000 in free T-shirts and other items to persuade students to raise their own fees to upgrade the student union.

UO Vice President Robin Holmes said Monday evening that the university has ended its contract with the firm and won’t follow through with any part of the full-bore effort to control student messaging, criticize opponents and hand out swag in advance of an October student vote.

ODE reporter Dash Paulson also had a 2012 story about it, here. Ian Campbell had another, here. The Chronicle of Higher Education had another, here:

That has led the university administration to some desperate measures—which may lead to more trouble. Students have learned that the university hired a Denver-based research-and-strategy firm, which specializes in political campaigns, to try to push the students to a yes vote in yet another referendum in October. That fact alone has irked some students who have been active in the student-union debate. 

But it’s the language of the proposal from RBI Strategies & Research that has really angered them. A section of the document lays out “what we say about opponents” of the university’s plan, ticked off in talking-point bullets: “narrow‐minded,” “stuck in past,” “stubborn,” and their “opinions are based in misconceptions and misinformation.” The damning last bullet: Students “don’t care.”

Today the ODE published an update on the EMU expansion:

“We weren’t pushing a ‘yes’ vote, we just put the information out there,’” Haunert said. “Some of the general concern is, ‘Why am I paying now if I am not going to be here next year?’ And I always say you have what you have right now because two years ago students paid early fees. We can’t build a building unless we have money to do it.’”  

Inexplicably, the reporter leaves this quote unchallenged, or for that matter even explained, and provides no reference to the many previous news reports. 

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15 Responses to ODE story on EMU ignores manipulation history

  1. Anonymous says:

    The contract, as you point out, was cancelled long before the election and when it was just a misguided conceptual plan, nothing put in action. So a disingenuous and dishonest leap to say this “manipulation” got the project approved. Student money was not used in any way to influence a legitimate ASUO referendum. You promotional post is just the same half lies and misleading innuendo that we all come to expect from UO Matters. Robin Holmes has been a tireless advocate for building a student union in the heart of campus that students and the UO community deserves.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not my expectation at all. I’ve learned orders of magnitude more from uom than any other source on campus. (Wait… Are there other sources? Our snobs sure don’t tell us anything.)

  2. UO Matters says:

    The contract was only cancelled because of the embarrassing publicity about it, which started with posts on UO Matters. A pdf of the Robin Holmes emails is here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/971644/uomatters/Union/CombinedFiles_Redacted.pdf

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sure, good for you on this lesser self important point. But no go on your previous assertions that the consultant concept plan manipulated the election, or that student funds were used to influence the vote.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Institutional memory is a powerful thing. My guess is that nobody told her about the EMU controversies. And she never bothered to look, or to ask. Sad.

  5. O says:

    That reminds me of an IHE essay the other day. Perhaps UOM should do a story on what role the loss of institutional knowledge has played at the UO and other flagship public universities, before he retires.

    http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2013/11/15/colleges-must-work-retain-and-document-institutional-knowledge-essay

    • Fishwrapper says:

      Fishwrapper observes: Your grammar implies that you rank UO with “flagship universities.” Would not the institution need to have that (flagship) status before using other flagships as comparators, or do you assume UOM would consult with his colleagues at OSU and write the story based upon such reportage?

    • flag bearer says:

      What actually IS a “flagship university”? Seriously.
      And when someone refers to their institution as such, does anyone think anything other than “me, it’s about me!” ?

    • Fishwrapper says:

      Fishwrapper replies: Normally, I would interpret that as a rhetorical question, but since you added “Seriously, ” I shall take it as a serious query. A “flagship university” denotes an institution that is leading in its group; this distinction ins borrowed in a metaphoric sense from the word “flagship” itself, which, in naval parlance denotes is the lead ship in a fleet of vessels, usually flying the commander’s flags, and is typically the largest, fastest, most heavily armed, or best known ship in such a fleet.

      Thus, to me, the use of the phrase “flagship university” would suggest that the institution in question is begin described as the largest, most heavily armed, or best known in comparison to its peers. From a rhetorical standpoint, this argument fails when referring to the U of O, especially in relation to the institution downstream. OSU is larger – in enrollment, investment in academic infrastructure projects, research dollars, and enough other data points to make it stick. OSU is more heavily armed – though “improvements” are being made at U of O in that regard. OSU is better known – well, there may be room for argument there, depending on the subject. I’ll concede that OSU is not better known than UO for outlandish spending on athletic perks, has not been featured in nation headlines for athletic recruitment scandals, or for its competitive cheer program. Then again OSU is better known in Salem for its commitment to the 40-40-20 initiative.

      And so, as someone who referred to an institution as such, I will state that it’s not about me; OSU is not “my” institution, except in the larger sense that I am an Oregonian (admittedly a transplanted one, but then again, aren’t we all?), and as such, I have several choices to look at before selecting one campus upon which to plan my “flag.”

    • flag bearer says:

      Thanks for replying and I agree with your definition.
      To be clear, I wasn’t meaning you when I said “it’s all about me”. I was referring to the users of such phrases, typically administrators or PR people, who are trying to further whatever they need to sell that day.

      And no, we’re not all transplants.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think it needs to be made clear that the quote from haunert that you include is not from the EMU article from Monday, but rather from the SRC article from Monday. I don’t know why you taske a quote from what article and pertain it to the other, if the articles have nothing to do with one another.

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