Using student fees for political lobbying is questionable enough, but punishing students for not lobbying reaches a new low in unethical practices.
On March 7, the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College travelled to the capitol to lobby for State Treasurer Ted Wheeler’s Opportunity Initiative. Members of The Broadside rode to Salem with ASCOCC in their rented van to provide coverage on the event, which appeared in the March 13 issue of The Broadside. Prior to this event, Kurt Killinger, the director of legislative affairs at ASCOCC, told a member of The Broadside that there was no need to apply for professional development funds for reporters to attend, because the council already planned on taking students with them to the capitol.
However, Kelly Huskey, the director of student organizations at ASCOCC, is now charging The Broadside for half the van rental– a cost which staff members were not made aware of until a week after the event, and which cannot be spared by The Broadside’s budget. Huskey claimed in an email that, because members of The Broadside did not participate in lobbying (which would have been a violation of journalism code of ethics) they were responsible for covering half the cost. If The Broadside wanted to cover the event, they would have had to apply for professional development funds, claimed Huskey, in direct contradiction to Killinger’s earlier statement.
ASCOCC did not inform The Broadside of our financial obligations before the trip took place, according to Huskey, because the council wasn’t aware that we intended to report on the event. Not only is this inconsistent with previous conversations, but it’s also difficult to believe. The four members of The Broadside boarded the van wearing Broadside nametags and carrying tripods, cameras, recorders and notepads: these are not the tools of a lobbyist. If that was a problem, it should have been addressed before departure, or at the very least during the event–not one week later.
Strangely, no other students who attended the event were asked to help pay for the van. Why the double standard? According to Huskey, it’s because we attended as members of The Broadside, not as students. The problem with that is all members of The Broadside are students. Like every other COCC student, we already paid for that trip through our student fees. We should not be expected to pay again.
With all of that considered, there seems to be no reason for The Broadside to have to pay for half the van rental. Not only were we assured free travel (or rather travel paid for by all of the student body), ASCOCC is not hurting for money. During their March 14 meeting, the council reported having “a lot” of money left over from winter term–unfortunately, no numbers were provided.
The Broadside is considered an ASCOCC recognized club. If we fail to comply with all of the rules in the club handbook, our funding is frozen. Yet, The Broadside does not receive the same perks offered to other clubs. Members of other clubs are not forced to identify as either a COCC student or a representative of their club.
Whether this whole fiasco is meant to punish four reporters for not lobbying, or a retaliation against the paper’s content, or simply an act of greed, let it serve as a warning to other clubs: If members of ASCOCC don’t like you, you can expect a different set of rules.