UO hires PR firm to convince students to vote ‘yes’ on EMU renovation

A conference call between an Oregon University System committee, ASUO President Laura Hinman and the vice president of Student Affairs Robin Holmes came together to discuss potential EMU renovations Friday at 2 p.m.

The conference call, which was mostly moderated by Chief Administrative Officer Kirk Schueler,@@[email protected]@ brought up many questions about the hiring of a marketing firm that could help pass the measure come fall term elections.

On Thursday, documents appeared on the UO Matters blog that provided evidence that RBI Strategies and Research, a marketing firm, had a budget of $20,000-$30,000 to use to help pass the EMU renovation.

“I was shocked to see that Student Affairs is so set on convincing students to do something that they’re paying an outside consultant,” former ASUO Chief of Staff Kerry Snodgrass@@[email protected]@ said. “It makes sense that they’re trying to be political with OUS, but when it comes down to working with students on an issue, they’re showing this lack of respect for all of this hard work student leaders have put into this conversation.”

Holmes explained the use of the consulting firm.

“The EMU Renovation Task Force Team asked the EMU staff if there was any possibility for there to be some help,” Holmes said, “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.”

A main concern with the hiring of the marketing firm is the stance the firm took. The firm was hired to take a ‘pro-yes’ stance on the EMU renovation. In the RBI letter to the EMU Task Force, winning was described as “gaining 50% + 1 votes necessary to realize the renovation of the student union.” The letter even recommended some talking points, calling opponents stubborn, stuck in the past as well as “politically active and engaged.”

Schueler suggested making the campaign about increasing voter turnout, not just about passing the measure.

“The marketing report that you contracted — it’s very biased,” Schueler said. “You need to focus on turnout, that’s what bothers me more is the low turnout.”

Discussion turned towards amending the motion so that a one-dollar line item would be added to legislature to act like a place holder. This would allow the discussion to be pushed back until the students at the University of Oregon have a chance to vote on the EMU referendum. If the bill is passed, the topic will go back to the OUS Board and the amount of the line item would be changed. If the bill is not passed, the line item would be removed.

“The act of approving $1 is really half of an approval,” OUS Board member Farbodd Ganjifard@@[email protected]@ said. “What we are not approving now is the dollar amount. That will be preserved until after the referendum.”

The motion passed 3-1-1.


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