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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:


  1. Anonymous 08/21/2012

    Some kudos for ending the effort suggested by RBI, but still no one is taking responsibility. We are still getting the passive “mistakes were made” statements. And the real issue here is judgment which was in short supply on this issue.

  2. UO Matters 08/21/2012

    Yup, while it seems pretty clear this effort was organized by Robin Holmes, she certainly isn’t taking responsibility for it, at least in her statements to reporters. Ian Campbell in the ODE had 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.”

  3. Oryx 08/21/2012

    A big high-five to UOMatters (and lots of commentators) for putting a quick end to this travesty. Buying opinions with backpacks? Characterizing your opponents as “stubborn” “narrow-minded” troglodytes? Stating that the ends (a nice student center) justify the means (bribery and smears)? Amazing.

    And though it’s disappointing that there isn’t direct responsibility being taken by our administrators, it’s at least encouraging that they responded to this outcry quickly.

    An entertaining few days!

  4. Anonymous 08/21/2012

    How do you smug jackasses suggest we upgrade the EMU, which desperately needs remodeling? Put a Nike Swoosh on the roof?

    • Anonymous 08/21/2012

      You’ve missed the point of this whole conversation – that just because you want something to happen doesn’t mean you can do whatever it takes. The tactics of this consulting firm were clearly out of the ethical bounds of how many want things to work at our University.

      We’ve got lots of smart people at UO – you should find some of them and put them to work on the EMU expansion.

      Or you could just resort to name calling – after all, someone paid some consultants good money for that exact advice.

    • Anonymous 08/21/2012

      Thanks for asking this essential question! They could start by eliminating the concert hall from the plans. That component, which has lacked even token student support, is expensive. As the single largest section of the new building and the largest piece of new construction, that concert hall is dominating the current building design and setting the high costs that students have repeatedly rejected. Removing it will save tens of millions of dollars, and help make the argument that the new building is for students rather than for wealthy prospective donors to the UO. Ask students for money to support a less expensive building that is more demonstrably designed for their needs, and you’ll be surprised what they’ll support.

  5. UO Matters 08/21/2012

    It’s hardly desperate, I use it several times a week, very functional, lots of students but far from a crisis mode. My guess is an honest evaluation would rank PLC offices and classrooms before EMU expansion. Do a little of both, cut the luxury features, it doesn’t have to look like the Jock Box. Do the financing so students don’t start paying until construction is done.

    • Anonymous 08/21/2012

      The lecture hall in PLC is the second biggest on campus and it is a terrible, depressing place to take a class. We need more classrooms like in Lillis, not a concert hall for some Brahman Festival. Who sets UO’s fundraising priorities?

    • Anonymous 08/21/2012

      Dog says

      On classrooms – well the lillis ones have windows so that
      may help other than that, the big lecture halls in lillis suffer
      the same two problems

      a) too many students per square foot so no one is comfortable after about 20 minutes of lecture torture

      b) inadequate screen size – if your in the back of the room, you can’t generally read the screen – most everyone who teaches in that room is completely unaware of the concept of angular resolution – if it its readable from 4 feet it must be readable from 40 feet

      while we may have redesigned some classrooms, we do not generally increase the workspace per student, so what is the point? I am only aware of one remodel that substantially increased square foot per student. Chapman 207 – while not
      a great room used to be horrible at 189 seats and now at 117
      seats (in the same space) there is breathing room.

    • Awesome0 08/21/2012

      There are certain buildings with chalk boards so terrible (Gerringer) that you can barely read anything written on them. In regards to projects, I think we need projecters with higher resolution that 640X480, maybe we could move up to high def projectors which use mini display ports or hdmi. That would make connecting sound easier for multi media and also make the presentations far easier to read.

    • Anonymous 08/22/2012

      dog says

      to be fair – all projectors are at lest 1024 x 768. I have already alerted (last Fall in fact) about the need for HDMI in creston units – still hasn’t happened in most spaces.

      However, we will soon be pushing visuals to individual student desks through their own hand hold or the surface of the desk itself and projectors and the like will go the way of VCRs.

      A high def projector (2 million pixels or more) is still not cheap; they are 10-12 K.

      What we don’t need are traditional overcrowded classrooms that allow us to treat our students like sardines. Does any one actually think there is pedagogical value in that set up?

    • Anonymous 08/22/2012

      I wonder if UO Matters might open a new post/comment about classrooms to initiate a broader discussion? Yes, that is something that should be done by the University admin, but it’s not. Or if they did, it could be one of those terrible surveys.
      There are a lot of different teaching styles, not all of which need high tech. All of them benefit from clean well-lit rooms with decent seating, comfortable temperature, good sightlines, and decent visual aids. Unbelievable that we need to push for such things at a ‘world-class’ University.

    • Anonymous 08/22/2012

      dog says

      I think this would be useful – in the past (and I have been part of this process) comments often descended rapidly to very idiosyncratic issues – so if posters could avoid doing that and bringing up general issues in specific spaces, I do think that would help. As a guide, building on the above anon – I think the issues should focus on, in no particular order

      1. Adequate lightning and lightning controls
      2. Sensible interfaces to projection equipment – note, a creston interface, while not my personal choice, nonetheless counts as “sensible”
      3. The sardine/overcrowding factor, do students have room
      4. The instructor personal space factor – can you wander without being hemmed in by students
      5. HVAC issues (although these are extremely expensive to fix)
      6. Screen/Character size and projector brightness/contrast
      7. Aspect angle and site lines
      8. Quality/move-ability of the seats
      9. Room dynamics and “feel”

      Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect classroom – there are decent ones and crap ones. Sensible comments from more than one poster on crap rooms might get some attention.

      So let me start out.

      One of my biases is that box seating (e.g. Willamette 100) totally sucks and “hemisphere seating” (e.g. Mckenzie 240a or c) at least has half a chance of engaging the students. So I refuse to teach in Will 100 (even though its generally thought of as a good space – and yes I wander up the aisles) because I find there is little engagement factor.

      Columbia 150 sucks it up one side and blows it out the other.

      The 3 new classrooms in the HedCo building are nice and flexible and quite useful.

      301 Deady should be quarantined …

      and to conclude this short list

      what was the point of the Fenton 110 remodel – that’s got a huge sardine factor ..

    • UO Matters 08/22/2012

      sorry for the delay, there’s now a new post of building/classroom ideas.

  6. Anonymous 08/21/2012

    Have you looked into the fact that Holmes has also contracted with a locally based marketing and PR firm almost from the beginning of this project? Wonder what that is costing.

    • UO matters 08/21/2012

      Tell me more I will request docs.

    • Anonymous 08/21/2012

      I don’t think that’s accurate. The marketing for the first two rounds was done in-house by EMU marketing and EMU staff, and did involve T-shirts. For the second round, a student was brought in to coordinate efforts and run social media, still with support from EMU marketing.

    • Anonymous 08/21/2012

      Just a guess . . . ask for contracts with or payments made to Funk/Levis or the Ulum Group. Both local. Both well-connected at UO. Both do good work.

  7. Anonymous 09/03/2012

    The honorable thing for the admins behind this pet project is to admit defeat and move on. If it is now apparent that the only way to get a strong enough vote is to trick enough students, the vote is no longer meaningful anyway.

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