Holmes, Moffitt take the EMU lead, students want transparency

That’s the word from Dashiell Paulson in the ODE:

University spokesperson Joe Mosley said that Moffit, who is also the University CFO, convened the committee and she and Holmes have “taken the lead” in discussing the progress of the group and discussing possible options for an EMU expansion with Gottfredson.

I’m surprised that Robin Holmes still has a job at UO. She just spent $17,000 in public funds to try and manipulate the outcome of a vote that was key to a $90 million state bond sale. She was only stopped because of some curious students and reporters and this blog. She wanted to spend $55,000.

President Gottfredson just let Lisa Thornton and Dave Hubin stall the release of public records on this. To now let Holmes “take the lead” with the EMU project is pretty troubling, even if Moffitt is there to supervise.

A bunch of UO students have just written President Gottfredson on this:

Dear President Gottfredson, 

As you know, students across the University and citizens across the state of Oregon were very concerned by the Division of Student Affairs’ handling of the proposed EMU renovation and specifically their decision to contract with a political consulting firm to interfere in a student election. 

I am deeply disturbed by the withholding of informative records about this project from Diane Dietz, of the Register-Guard, and, more importantly, from the community at large. I urge you to instruct Vice President Robin Holmes and the Office of Public Records to release these records immediately at no cost. 

Students cannot trust our institution unless our institution first trusts us with the information that we need to make informed decisions about the future of our institution. Please change the course that the Division of Student Affairs has mapped out by adopting transparency as a top priority.

Here’s hoping Mr. Paulson has some of the investigate instincts of his namesake, and that the ODE starts making some public records requests to find out what’s really going on. 

EMU elections firm drops Holmes, or vice versa?

8/21/2012: Word from the historic EMU FishBowl is that RBI Strategies no longer thinks it’s in their best interests to be associated with UO and the efforts of our VP for Student Affairs to use student money to manipulate students into voting for higher student fees. More when Randy Geller gets around to filling this public records request. Meanwhile, Betsy Hammond has more in the Oregonian:

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.

Diane Dietz reports in the RG:

Holmes could not be reached for comment.

Yes, “mistakes were made,” as they say, but Robin Holmes is not taking the fall. Ian Campbell had this quote from her in the ODE, blaming it on students and staff:

“The EMU Renovation Task Force Team asked the EMU staff if there was any possibility for there to be some help as they looked at the ways to put out the educational messages and the facts about the project and the best way to address that. The EMU staff contracted with a marketing team, …”

That said, I expect she’ll soon issue a statement saying something like:

“While the details of this regrettable campaign were arranged by others, I must accept responsibility for failing to supervise these students and employees adequately.” 

“Of course I mean responsibility in the abstract sense. I’m not going to actually pay the RBI bill out of my raise, or suffer any other consequences from these mistakes. You are.”

The contract is here. Interestingly the signatures for legal review aren’t on this version, or they were redacted by General Counsel Randy Geller’s office, or it was never reviewed. Take your pick:

VPSA Holmes to repay $25,000 RBI contract out of her latest raise

Just kidding – we all know UO’s top administrators never face the consequences of their decisions – that’s for us little people. The student union is stuck with the bill, and the students who supported this for genuine reasons now look like dupes or worse. But FWIW her $40,000 raise from Bob Berdahl in May puts her at $233,000 plus an apparently UO paid family trip to the Rose Bowl – not that I’m jealous. Scott Carlson of the Chronicle of Higher Education has more on the EMU debacle here. Excerpt:

Robin Holmes, vice president for student affairs at the University of Oregon, has led the renovation project. Her office released a statement Friday night, following the meeting.
“We have heard the concerns that the manner of contracting with the communications services firm was a misstep and we agree,” the statement said. ”The UO will not implement all of the recommendations made by the communications firm.” 

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

So now RBI strategies is a “communications services firm”. And Orwell was a “noted children’s author”. BTW the comments on Bojack are pretty good:

“Now I’m not going to stand here and tell you we didn’t take a few liberties with our academic budgets. We did.”

VP Holmes hires election consultant for EMU expansion

Full version of the RBI Strategies EMU campaign plan is here.

Update: Why was the RBI contract for $25,000? Because Oregon administrative rules require public notice for contracts of $25,000.01 or more. Sneaky.

Update: Diane Dietz has the story in the RG. AP version here. VP Holmes spent $25,000 of student union money for the consultants report below, and was apparently planning on blowing another $30,000 on swag and propaganda. Ian Campbell in the ODE has this quote:

“The EMU Renovation Task Force Team asked the EMU staff if there was any possibility for there to be some help as they looked at the ways to put out the educational messages and the facts about the project and the best way to address that. The EMU staff contracted with a marketing team, they did not use student fees for this fee, they used auxiliary funds out of the reserve account that they had. We are currently taking a look at that contract and are potentially rethinking if we will be using that service or not at this time,” Holmes said.

“Potentially rethinking”? “Educational messages”? “Not an effort to fool students”? Bullshit. Come on ODE – just email pubrec@uoregon.edu and make a public records request for the BANNER records, contracts, invoices, and emails between RBI and EMU task force members and UO employees. If you don’t make it clear that you will verify what administrators say when you interview them, they will keep lying to you.

Update: The EMU board – which presumably approved this use of funds – is supposed to have 3 faculty members, appointed by the UO president. The current board is listed here. 2 of the 3 “faculty” members are actually administrators – one for DPS, one for the Recreation Center.

Word in the comments is that OUS today passed the request for bonds, conditional on a positive election outcome, and that student union money was indeed used to pay the consultant and to hire at least ASUO student senator to work on the campaign.

8/17/2012: This is for $90 million in funding to renovate and expand the EMU student union building. The OUS finance subcommittee votes on the approval for bonds Friday 8/17, docket here. They are doing this in the summer to minimize student input – it almost worked, see below.

The UO students have voted against this several times, a fact which is conveniently not mentioned in the proposal to OUS. Costs have increased from $300 per student per year to $351 (note: part of this is for the associated rec center expansion, see the docket for details). Payment starts 2 years before construction finishes. Final OUS approval will be conditional on a positive vote from the students this fall, which new ASUO Pres Laura Hinman believes she can deliver. To put this in perspective, these fees will be about 4x what the students currently pay in subsidies for the athlete only Jock Box tutoring.

Now it turns out that VP for Student Affairs Robin Holmes (Update: and/or the EMU directors) are using $30K in student money to convince the students to vote to tax themselves for this project. I don’t see any other explanation for the documents below – unless the UO Foundation is footing the bill. Full report from the RBI election consulting firm is here, their estimated cost spreadsheet is here.

This is amazingly manipulative – and is it really legal to make people pay the costs of a campaign to convince them to vote yes on a bond initiative? My understanding is that a school board, for example, would be in serious trouble for something like this. Unfortunately UO general counsel Randy Geller’s new legal policy prevents student government from obtaining competent independent legal advice – they have to rely on UO’s general counsel Randy Geller.

The politically active and engaged Lamar Wise and other ASUO Senators are going to bring their objections to the project – and more importantly I think their evidence of manipulation – to the OUS meeting on 8/17/2012. Their full testimony is here. Excerpt:

Retention raise for Robin Holmes

5/18/2012: VPSA Robin Holmes was one of three finalists for the VPSA job at Virginia Tech. She withdrew before the campus visits, apparently in return for a raise from $193,128 to $233,000 as of May 1, 2012. If rumor is correct she also got all expense paid trips to the Rose Bowl for self and family. Not that I’m jealous. Pretty nice retention raise, considering she didn’t have an offer in hand and didn’t even have to do a flyout. There’s more on the special treatment UO’s central administrators get for raises here, thanks to a public records request from Nathan Tublitz. And thanks to an anonymous reader for this tip. Given Berdahl’s new public records fees we’re either going to need to get more info on JH’s backroom deals this way or take a serious hit to the scotch budget. So please help UO Matters keep things flowing freely.

Eckstein aces game theory, Holmes flunks.

12/7/2011: VP for students Robin Holmes gave the UO students an ultimatum: Vote for the administration’s version of your new student union, or you will get nothing:

Holmes also said the administration will respect the student vote. If the referendum is rejected, the projects will not be built and the facilities will remain as they are.

I’m no economist, but this is bullshit. Draw the game tree, do the backwards induction and find the unique pure strategy sub-game perfect Nash equilibrium. If the students vote against the administration’s plan, will it then really be in VP Holmes’ best interests to stop the EMU renovation? Of course not – that’s not going to get her a job as president somewhere. And ASUO President Ben Eckstein called her bluff. On Friday the students voted against her plan. Today VP Holmes folded and, via Greg Bolt in the RG, she told the students she would negotiate:

In voting that wrapped up Friday, 57 percent of students casting ballots disapproved of the EMU project and 52 percent rejected the recreation center. More than 4,600 students voted.
Holmes said everything will be on the table in talks with students, including scaling back the project to reduce the fee to pay for it.

UO students are getting a good education. Our administrators need a few more classes. Explain. 20 points possible.

Holmes cleans up Martinez’s mess

10/30/2011: OIED VP Charles Martinez was one of those interim appointments gone permanent and bad. He had a remarkable ability to screw up UO’s diversity efforts, despite spending most of his time off campus double dipping at his second job at OSLC.

Last year Lariviere bought Martinez off with a no-search tenured job in the College of Education, then this fall he appointed VP for Student Affairs Robin Holmes to run OIED on an interim basis. My prediction? The secretive search run by Scott Coltrane and “Diversity Search” at a cost of $100,000 fails, and Holmes then adds the VP for “Diversity and Institutional Equity” job to her portfolio.

And – trust me I *really* never thought I would say this – maybe that’s a good thing. Holmes has a stubborn flaw as an administrator: She just won’t consult with faculty or students about anything – from moving graduation day, to the EMU renovations, and now to the reorganization of OMAS. But the reorganization itself is long overdue, it’s sensible, and Holmes appears to have support from the people who want to change things for the better. OIED needs good administration.

As this ODE story by Mei Tsai reports, some of the students that use OMAS are now up in arms. Their blog is here.  This was predictable, they should have been brought into the reform process. The story I’ve heard is that they are being manipulated by those OMAS advisors who are going to get reassigned by VP Holmes to actual real jobs. Jobs advising students, reporting to administrators with goals, and held to account for their productivity. Nobody likes that.

VP Holmes is apparently scheduling meetings with the students next week. I hope this gets fixed. Meanwhile here’s the latest Org chart: