Terhune: Rousseau dishonest again about New Partnership, DPS legislation

I had a different column all ready to go this week, but then ASUO President Amelie Rousseau submitted a Letter to the Editor and, if you’ll excuse the cliche, I decided to stop the presses and write this one instead. While I’ve talked about the New Partnership before and addressed Rousseau’s less-than-stellar honesty, it doesn’t appear as though she’s [email protected]@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&[email protected]@

Once Rousseau finishes her introduction, the dishonesty starts: “While our faculty is the lowest-paid in the country, our university president is paid more than the President of the United States.” At face value, this claim is true. President Lariviere makes about $414,000 while the President of the United States makes $400,000. Of course, the U.S. President receives an enormous travel and expense account, and also a $19,000 entertainment budget, so the factual basis of the comparison is thin. Worse, Rousseau attempts to use this as evidence that the University administration has poor fiscal priorities. Had Rousseau looked outside the Oregon University System, however, then she would have found that Lariviere is by no means overpaid. E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, makes $802,125 in salary alone; his total cost of employment is about $1.8 million. The median total cost of employment for a university president is $440,487. In other words, President Lariviere’s salary is pretty average and by no means exorbitant.

The very next sentence is another half-truth: “While our administration gives themselves raises, classified staff workers are threatened with less health care coverage and 3 percent pay cuts.” In reality, Lariviere and all of the other OUS presidents froze their salaries at 2008 levels in January of 2010, and took a voluntary 4.6 percent salary reduction in the last part of 2009. Then Rousseau complains about Knight Arena, which was indeed very expensive. Keep in mind, however, that the land for the arena was purchased in 2004, and demolition began in the spring of 2008, my freshman year, before the recession had started.

I could dissect the accuracy and relevance of Rousseau’s anti-New Partnership rhetoric until I’m blue in the face, but sandwiched in the middle of her letter was a real gem. “Approximately 78 percent of students who voted in this year’s ASUO election support the current structure of the Department of Public Safety as a campus security force without weapons and with limited ability to infringe on student rights.” In the interests of nit-picking, it was actually 68 percent, not 78 percent; 5,705 total people voted in the election, but only 4,973 voted on the DPS ballot initiative itself, which passed with 3,878 votes.

More important is that awful, twisted phrase at the end: “limited ability to infringe on student rights.” What rights of ours are being infringed upon? Is it the right to smoke marijuana in public? Because that’s not a right. Is it the right to stumble around drunkenly? Not a right, either. Maybe it’s the right to gather in groups of 400-plus people in a residential neighborhood, get totally smashed and break car windows? Again, not a right. Whether you agree with EPD’s use of tear gas in that incident or not, people don’t get to congregate in groups that large without permits.

I’m not advocating for a police state. I’m not advocating for police to have guns. I’m not even advocating for DPS to be a police force. The fact of the matter is, however, that President Rousseau systematically approaches conversations with our campus partners from a place of misinformation, lies and outright disrespect. I can’t be the only person who has told her so, and even if I am, this is the fourth time that something has been printed in this very paper, on this very page, telling her that she embarrasses me as my representative. I am quite sure that I don’t have a personal dislike for President Rousseau. What I do have is a dislike for being routinely, systematically disappointed in the way our most vocal and most visible representative conducts herself while she does her job.

How much respect can someone have for you when they don’t even bother telling you the truth? How effective an ambassador can someone be when they are constantly belittling the contributions our staff and administration make to our community? I hoped, after her stunningly inappropriate Convocation speech, that she would learn an important lesson about respect and coalition-building. Instead, I am a stone’s throw from marching around with a shirt that says, “Not my president.”

Rousseau closes her most recent letter with the following: “We demand to be at the table, and we will continue the fight to be heard.” Perhaps, President Rousseau, you would be a more welcome dinner guest if you had better manners.

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