UO Trustee and ASUO President Sam Dotters-Katz threatens President Gottfredson with student government secession from the UO administration

4/8/2014 update: No, I’m not making this up, and yes, my first reaction was to wonder why the UO Senate didn’t think of this years ago.

Reporter Ian Campbell has the story in the Emerald, which also has a helpful timeline for background on this developing crisis. Meanwhile, still no word on which administrator ordered UO’s newly armed police department to arrest and jail one of ASUO’s student president candidates.

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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. 

Jail time for rigging student president election

7/16/2013: From Teri Figueroa in the San Diego UT:

A former Cal State San Marcos student who rigged a campus election by stealing nearly 750 student passwords to cast votes for himself and friends was sentenced Monday in federal court to a year in prison….

On Weaver’s computer, authorities found a PowerPoint presentation from early 2012, proposing that he run for campus president and that four of his fraternity brothers run for the four vice president spots in the student government. The presentation noted that the president’s job came with an $8,000 stipend and the vice presidents each got a $7,000 stipend. 

Weaver also had done a bit of research, with computer queries such as “how to rig an election” and “jail time for keylogger.” 

Of course Robin Holmes got off scott free with trying to manipulate the EMU election. Some similar computer shenanigans happened with a student election at UO a few years back, but I don’t think anyone pressed charges.

Check out the dueling ASUO tumblr blogs for insider snark: The progressives here, the conservatives here. Our students have watched a lot of videos.

Update: Robin Holmes certifies UO student elections, students protest

Update 4/16/2013: A group of students are protesting Holmes’s intervention:

  We write this letter in protest of the circumstances surrounding the culmination of the 2013 ASUO elections. 

        The unwarranted intervention by UO Administration in the release of this year’s election results was an unacceptable breach of the autonomy of our student body and government.  Long has it been a point of pride at this University that student political activity thrives free from outside influence.  It is a right that we have labored for since its inception. 

        This is not a matter of winners or losers.  We write this knowing full well that Constitution Court’s decision not only punished the United Oregon campaign, but our own as well. Constitution Court ruled that both campaigns behaved inappropriately and ought to be disqualified from elections, thus invalidating the election in its entirety. 

        Our ability to operate as the most autonomous student government in the nation is at stake.  Therefor we ask that Dr. Holmes formally withdraw her decision in which she ordered the elections results be released, and allow Constitution Court to resume control of the ASUO election process, permitting the ASUO to resolve this issue autonomously, regardless the outcome or consequences. We also ask that Constitution Court write a decision free of outside intervention or influence on the part of UO Administration.  We will happily submit to any ruling that that body hands down, on the condition that it be allowed to do so in the manner discussed herein.

4/15/2013: VPSA Robin Holmes learned the easy way – as in she still has a job – that Oregon law does not govern ASUO elections. As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Ed last summer:

Lately, the University of Oregon has had a little trouble getting students to go along with its plan to renovate Erb Memorial Union, the university’s dilapidated student-union building. The sticky part of that plan: getting students to vote to raise their fees to help pay for the $135-million renovation. In two referenda in the past year, students voted down the university’s plans, which would have raised fees by $100 per term. 

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. … 

Ms. Holmes did not respond to requests for an interview. 

But the language of the proposal was only one concern. The proposal also outlines a budget of $20,000 to $30,000 to spend on T-shirts, drawstring backpacks, banners, table tents, stickers, and other items designed to spread the message and win over 3,000 voters. 

“They are basically spending $10 a vote, which I think is ridiculous,” Mr. Wise said.

The initiative eventually passed. Apparently UO student politics and butt-ugly t-shirts go together like Tammany and Hall. In the ASUO elections that ended Friday, the competing campaigns of Lamar Wise and Sam Dotters-Katz were both accused of using t-shirts to buy votes.

And ODE reporter Ian Campbell reports that Dr. Holmes was willing to go on record this time:

The ASUO Constitution Court issued an opinion,” Holmes wrote, “that the ASUO Election results were invalid, based on the opinion that both campaigns violated ASUO election rules because they failed to comply with Oregon election laws. ASUO elections are not subject to Oregon election law. As such, the election is valid and the results should be released as soon as possible.”

Mr. Dotters-Katz, a law student, was the winner. He is best known for de-funding OSPIRG when he was ASUO President a few years back, as an undergrad. Good work, Mr. D-K. But in this election students also passed a ballot initiative to *increase* OSPIRG funding. Should be an interesting and educational year for student government.

Update – renovation passes. Student letter protests EMU process

Update: The EMU renovation has passed the OUS board. Hilariously, “Around the O” doesn’t report this qualification:

“Approved adding to the OUS 2013-2015 Capital request a total of $84.3 million in Article XI-F(1) bonds to renovate and expand the Erb Memorial Union at the University of Oregon, subject to satisfactory resolution of a student’s grievance related to the validity of the student referendum.”

But sharp-eyed ODE reporter  Kirah Ingram does. Anyone got the roll call?

My take? The new EMU will be great. And the corrupt process, which included using student money to manipulate students into voting to tax themselves, is an unexpected if expensive bonus to the political education of our UO student leaders.

For the historically minded, here’s the post that broke the news on the administration’s attempt to slide this through over the summer when the students were gone, here are some of the Holmes/Gottfredson emails, and here’s the whole thread with many posts, links to many news stories, and hundreds of comments.

1/11/13. They’re not against the building, or the bonds, they’re just pro-democracy. That idea will be crushed when the board votes today. Robin Holmes and the JH election manipulators will teach our idealistic students how government really functions. Dave Hubin had his finger in this too.

To Members of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education,
We, the undersigned student leaders of the University of Oregon, would like to respectfully urge you not to include the EMU renovation and expansion proposal in your upcoming budget.
This proposal was voted down twice because students thought the cost was too high. The first time, it was $65 per term, and the second was $100. The fact that the $69 number was approved by record-low turnout compared to the other two elections should show that student opinion has not changed. Instead, the students to whom ASUO President Hinman’s administration chose to outreach were hand-picked in an attempt to push the new fee onto students. 
Additionally, while the students involved in the ASUO’s outreach claim that they did so in an unbiased way, it is clear from their talking points, handouts, and website that they were trying to encourage students to vote yes. One student reported an announcement in their class where the ASUO representative told all students to “vote for” the referendum. Talking points included the “need to renovate,” how we have “outgrown our current space” and half-truths about how the renovation would make the EMU more sustainable, despite the fact that UO policies would allow the administration to use the student-financed reductions to offset increases from burgeoning athletic facilities, like the rumored new golf course. There is no mention in any of these talking points the rising cost of higher education, the students for whom this fee may be the deciding factor in being able to afford UO, or the corrupt actions of the EMU Task Force in using student money to pay RBI, a private firm, to politicise the issue and force the new fee onto students.
Lastly, it is clear that the University of Oregon intended to run this vote over and over again until administration finally got the result they wanted. This, more than anything, shows that they only care about their own agenda, and that the renovation, which was voted down twice previously, is not in the best interest of students.
For all of these reasons, we urge you to vote down the renovation proposal in its current form. A neutral student vote should be implemented and the UO Administration must be willing to work with students in a meaningful way. Only then will we be certain that we can produce an alternative proposal which will satisfy the needs of the student body in an affordable manner.
Joanna Stewart, Women’s Center Public Relations Coordinator
Andrew Rogers, 2011-2012 ASUO Communications Director
Sophie Luthin, 2011-2012 ASUO Environmental Advocate
Michael Reeves, 2011-2012 EMU Board Member

EMU Update: Hagemann kicks UO Matters out of OUS meeting

Update: It appears from the docket that one of the bond sales approved during the public part of this meeting was $2.06 Million to start Robin Holmes’s EMU renovation project:

Which explains why they met while the students were out of town. The Oregon Commentator has stories on the EMU from Ben Schorr and Nick Ekblad – who got Dave Hubin to cough up the Holmes emails.

Live blogging at bottom: 12/21/12: The public meeting of the OUS Finance and Admin Committee starts at 8:30 AM and lasts 30 minutes. The executive session starts at 9:00, and is scheduled for 7 hours. I have no idea what they plan to discuss. The only thing they will tell the public is that

“… they will discuss records that are exempt by law from public inspection.”

The last time OUS did this Paul Kelly called for a secret bathroom break, then they all filed back in and fired Lariviere. And they’re still trying to keep UO Matters editor Bill Harbaugh out of the stall:

Thank you for the message.  The UO Matters blog is not an institutionalized news media organization and you will not be admitted to the executive session portion of tomorrow’s meeting as a “representative of the news media” on that basis.

Sincerely,
RYAN JAMES HAGEMANN
General Counsel
Oregon University System
www.ous.edu

It stinks. I’ve agreed to follow all the normal executive session rules, and I’ll be there at 8:30. Nigel Duara of the Oregon chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has written a letter endorsing my efforts to be admitted to this session:

While we are astounded that the Attorney General has essentially laid the responsibility for defining who is and who is not “institutionalized” news media in the hands of the very organizations who are the subject of coverage (one is put in mind of teenagers permitted to set their own curfews), we can only assume that, in the spirit of transparency,
openness and goodwill toward all, the Oregon University System will reconsider its troubling and meritless rejection of Harbaugh’s request.

Check back to see if Hagemann kicks me out – in which case I’m really going to start wondering what is going down. Call to meeting and docket:


Abstract:

They kicked me out: Very crowded room, something big is going on in there. 
Free coffee cup to whoever leaves the comments with the most and least accurate description of what fresh hell OUS is up to in there. Something Mayan? 

Who’s in? 10-12 Board people including Pernsteiner, Ciufetti. Kurt Shuler, Gottfredson, Bean, Moffitt, and a swarm of well dressed lobbyist types. n~40. Think I saw Roger Thompson. Mary Spilde. Ed Ray. 

Who’s out? Mullens, Holmes, Espy, Harbaugh

Live Blog:
8:30 AM:
Public meeting starts – bond sales – revenue bonds, they have enough revenue to keep the tax exemption (unlike with Matt Court).

Kirk: Do individually. #1 passes
Moderator?: OSU renovations:
Pernsteiner enters, looking very shaky.
OSU Athletics projects – bonds paid with PAC12 $16M in new revenue.
Schueler: PAC12 – isn’t already allocated? Ed Ray: $30+ million in new cable money coming.
Mod: In the next couple of years Beavs will erase $8 million subsidy over several years. They also have pledges.
Mod: PSU Housing renovations. Self-sustaining.
Motion to sell the bonds, passes unanimously.
#4. Mod: All universities are within 7% ceiling.
#5. New standing resolution to refinance bonds when advantageous, work w/ State Treasurer.
#6. New bonds to fund – plenty of revenue to fund – passes.

That’s it for public meeting – move on to executive session of the committee, all present.

Kirk Schuler now reads language on news media. Two reporters identify themselves. One is allowed to stay – didn’t get his name. Charles Triplett walks over to me and says “I am Charles Triplett, Board Secretary. Ryan Hagemann has determined that you are not a member of the news media and we are asking you to leave.” What would HHDL do? I left. 

As I was in the hall, Jamie Moffitt came walking in for the executive session. President Gottfredson was already in the room, along with the Committee and about 30 well-dressed hangers on. So your guess is as good as mine about what’s going on in there.

9:15: Had a good chat with Hagemann in the hall – tried to scare him with a little lawyer stuff, he doesn’t care, not his money. There may or not be a public meeting to make decisions about what they see in secret today. Think I’ll sit here and drink their coffee for a bit.

9:23: Biker dude in full leathers walks in.

Bean walks out, searches for the elevator, comes back 15 min later.

The science post-docs have discovered Dr. Pernsteiner’s croissant stash in the atrium. Going fast, George.

Googling open meetings law – Franklin in the Philadelphia Gazzette:

10:22: In France, they wouldn’t serve these croissants to a dog. Graduate students walk off muttering.

10:34 Coming out for a break. Seem happy. I’ve staked out the refreshments table. Moffitt and Gottfredson turn back. Monica Rimai from PSU comes out. Allyn Ford seems like the most popular. No one’s talking to Bean.

10:52 They go back in the room. Lots of complaints that it’s too small. It’s huge.

11:13: OK, I finished off the last of their coffee – I’m outta here. Might check back later.

Holmes/Gottfredson/Lariviere EMU emails

Full email dump here. Lots of CYA, spiced with a little defamation. Robin Holmes to Mike Gottfredson, after Diane Dietz broke the RBI story:

Of course UO would never interfere in a student election. And anyway, it’s OK, everybody does it. Wait: the EMU is generating profits as an IRS 990 auxiliary and then using them for a political slush fund? It’s like Nixon and milk. OK, not exactly, but I wonder what else is under that rock. Next time get Paul Weinhold to give you some UO Foundation money, much harder to trace.

For the record, here’s what the RBI campaign consultants actually said:

That’s right, the narrow-minded stubborn politically engaged student opponents just don’t care about sustainability. Or diversity. That’s factual information? Really, Ms Holmes – I’m no lawyer, but ask Randy Geller – this is defamatory if you claim it’s a fact. Or ask a competent lawyer instead – that’s my opinion, Randy.

Thanks to anon for sharing the records. When you turn 21 I owe you a drink. Hell, stop by my office tomorrow, there’s a bottle in my desk. It’s OK, everybody does it. 11/19/2012.

Final: EMU referendum to start before RBI explanation

Final update: Not until Hubin gives the Commentator the emails showing who gave Robin Holmes the go ahead to hire the RBI consultants and what their orders were.

11/16/2012 6PM: The ODE now reports that the referendum passed with 54% of ~4,000 votes. The ends justify the means?

11/16/2012: Ian Campbell of the ODE reports that someone sent students an email, purportedly from the ASUO, advising students to vote against the referendum:

The email — sent from asuonewsletter@gmail.com — encourages students to vote No, citing as talking points “limited student input” and the use of a “shady political consultant.”

Meanwhile Dave Hubin has still not given the Commentator the emails explaining just how that shady political consultant got hired.

11/15/2012 update: The Commentator reports that a student has now filed a grievance with ASUO about this referendum, arguing that it was not set up by the proper elections committee.

11/14/2012 update: The EMU people have been asking faculty to use class time to let them make a spiel about the renovation referendum. If anyone has let them do this, I’d be interested in hearing what was in the pitch:

Subject: EMU Referendum Educational Campaign 

Dear Professor X, 

My name is [] and I am an intern with the ASUO. This week, November 12th-15th, we are running an educational campaign about the EMU referendum. We believe it is important that students get informed and vote! Our goal as an organization is NOT to tell students how to vote, we just want to get an accurate representation of the student body in this special election. I am contacting you today because we have volunteers that would like to give a class rap in your [] class [].
Please e-mail me back as soon as you can so I can contact our volunteers. Thank you so much for your time and consideration, we as a student body appreciate your involvement in issues we find important. 

Sincerely, []
Intern for ASUO University Affairs Commissioner

11/10/2012: My generation was taught elections were honest. So when Watergate happened it was seen as an outrage and people fought back. Oregon’s public records law, for example, came from Dave Frohnmayer’s efforts to clean up his Republican party’s reputation.

The UO students will have one last election on the EMU renovation, starting Monday. The decision is whether or not to buy a $90 million bond that will cost $207 per student per year for 30 years. The UO administration has still not explained how it happened that UO hired the RBI campaign consultants – with student EMU money – to attempt to manipulate students into voting for this. The basics of this story are only known because some courageous students forwarded documents to this blog and to reporters. Yesterday they sent me a tip that new funny business may be going on.

UO is teaching its students that elections are dishonest and that there’s nothing they can do about it. When the next challenge to democracy comes, they will just shrug and walk on. This is a disaster that’s certainly more important than whether or not this referendum passes. UO needs to come clean with the students about the RBI contract. I can think of three scenarios:

A) Robin Holmes decided on her own to hire RBI with EMU funds and didn’t tell her boss, Interim President Berdahl. 

B) The students decided on their own and without the knowledge of Holmes to hire RBI with their EMU funds. 

C) Berdahl (or perhaps Lariviere) told Robin Holmes to get the students to vote for the renovation, no matter what it took. 

Reporters haven’t been able to get a straight answer out of Holmes, but perhaps her emails show something. UO student Nick Ekblad – a reporter for the Commentator – asked Dave Hubin’s Public Records Office for these emails last week:

Pursuant to Oregon public records laws ORS 192.410 to 192.505, I write a third request, this one being a digital copy of all e-mail correspondence of rhholmes@uoregon.edu from September 1, 2011 to present containing any of the keywords: EMU, renovation, vote, RBI, strategy, strategies, referenda, referendum, campaign, election.

Stonewalling by the Nixon administration ensured that the 1972 McGovern-Nixon election occurred before Woodward and Bernstein were able to unravel the Watergate story. We’ll see if the UO administration provides these emails and an accurate explanation of their efforts to manipulate the outcome of the election, before the student vote starts on Monday.

Update: EMU referendum meeting today

Update: There was a kickoff meeting today on the EMU renovation referendum vote. It seems the efforts to influence the outcome are still chugging along. An anonymous source asked that I post this:

1)  The attendees, most of them from ASUO exec staff, made it clear that they should present information in a neutral way in order to avoid getting in trouble. However, amongst each other they were very clear that they all supported the renovation. So the theme of the meeting was “we all support the renovation, but this campaign has to appear neutral in order for the referendum to actually pass” not “let’s just inform the student body, regardless of the outcome.” 

2) They’re planning to offer prizes to whichever greek house has the highest voter turn-out. This is for overall turnout, not for yes votes, but I still think it’s completely wrong that they would offer prizes exclusively to their preferred demographic. Imagine Romney exclusively paying wealthy Caucasians to vote, but then claiming it was okay because he couldn’t control which way they voted.

11/7/2012: Nick Ekblad has the scoop in the Commentator:

 A supposedly “informative kickoff meeting” for the EMU referendum vote will be taking place TOMORROW (WEDNESDAY), November 7th at 3pm in the Mills International Center. Learn more about the renovation and how you can get involved. The ASUO Executive’s plan for the following week of voting will be addressed, as well as how students will be educated and informed. Students can’t have a voice if students don’t attend!

Meanwhile the details of how exactly UO and G. Gordon Libby Robin Holmes came to hire the RBI election consultants are still hidden. There are a lot of public records requests in for documents. My guess is that John Ehrlichman Dave Hubin and the public records office use the usual fees and redactions methods to stall on releasing them until after the students vote to tax themselves to fund the renovation.

UO happily spent $17,000 in student money trying to manipulate this election, but Hubin wouldn’t give the Register Guard a $172.21 fee waiver for the documents explaining it. Wouldn’t want any informed voting, would we. 11/7/2012.