EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — University of Oregon leaders have decided not to pursue a full campaign including free T-shirts to encourage students to raise their own fees to upgrade the student union.
The university paid a top political firm, Denver-based RBI Strategies and Research, $17,000 to craft a strategy to sell students on the proposal to raise fees by $351 a year to fund a $135 million renovation and expansion of the Erb Memorial Union, which was built in 1950 and lacks space for all the students and campus groups who want to use it.
RBI pitched a plan to control student messaging, criticize opponents and hand out swag in advance of an October student vote, The Oregonian newspaper reported. RBI advised the university to give students drawstring backpacks that included the campaign slogan and to avoid talk about how long students would have to make bond payments.
Some student leaders criticized the hard-sell approach, and UO Vice President Robin Holmes conceded their point in a letter emailed late Monday afternoon to the Oregon University System's chancellor and board members.
"Students and others were correct and appropriate in raising this as a concern," she wrote to Chancellor George Pernsteiner.
Holmes said the university has ended its contract with the firm and won't follow through with any part of the campaign.
She said UO leaders will find a way to scale back the scope of the construction project and the cost to students.
The renovation would add "green" features, 10,000 square feet and a large concert hall.
Students have twice voted against raising their fees to pay for such an upgrade.
University administrators said they believed they could win a third vote following the election of a student president who supports improving the center.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press