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higherone boycott

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[23 Nov 2004|06:33pm]
PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY: 300 students gathered in the Park Blocks today, finally storming President Bernstein’s office in protest of the university’s decision to replace campus identification with debit cards carrying MasterCard logos. Bearing signs with slogans like “I am not a profit margin,” 150 students remained in Bernstein’s office for approximately an hour, loudly demanding that PSU break its contract with HigherOne, the Connecticut bank supplying the cards.

Several people spoke at the rally, including Gary Ruskin from the national organization Commercial Alert and several students. Debit cards were publicly destroyed, to great cheers from the audience.

“Some things are not for sale…and the university is not a mall,” said Ruskin. Others complained of privacy invasion, the lack of student input, and HigherOne’s high fees. PSU has delivered all students’ information to HigherOne despite complaints from some and at least one lawsuit. A class action lawsuit against PSU and other HigherOne client universities was also discussed at the rally.

President Bernstein told protesters he would “resolve the issues” and scheduled a meeting with student government for next week to discuss the HigherOne contract.

The cards have been a source of controversy on the Portland campus since students were informed of the contract this September. Students have launched a massive boycott with more than 2000 pledged supporters, and similar actions are taking place on the campuses of Southern Oregon University and the Oregon Institute of Technology.

More information here
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[19 Nov 2004|07:32pm]
Portland State Students Stage "Day of Action" Against Debit-Style ID Cards

Students, faculty, and staff at Portland State University and Southern
Oregon University plan to walk out and rally against their new
MasterCard student ID cards, the privatization of higher education,
and the unethical use of student records to generate profit.

Community, professors, and students to speak. Activities are planned
protesting the cards and the "virtual bank", Higher One. Over 200
students, faculty, and staff are expected to attend.

WHO: PSU student boycotters, PSU professors, and community leaders

WHAT: Class walk-out: Day of Action protests

WHEN: Tuesday, November 23, 2004 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

WHERE: Portland State University Park Blocks, on Montgomery St
between Smith Memorial Student Union and Cramer Hall buildings. In
case of rain, the main cafeteria in the Smith Memorial. Location at
Southern Oregon University to be determined Monday.

SPEAKERS: Speakers include Gary Ruskin, Executive Director of
Commercial Alert; Steve Dixon, OSPIRG Consumer Advocate; and PSU
professor Tom Hastings. Several students are also expected to speak.

PSU students' id cards will be replaced this week by debit cards
issued by an out-of-state "virtual bank". Worries about the
commercialization of higher education and invasion of student privacy
have led to a massive boycott, to which 2,000 students have already
pledged their support.

Students and teachers at Portland State University will walk out of
classes and gather for protest in the South Park Blocks. Various
speakers are planned, and students will be doing "photo ops" with a
mannequin executive and making jewelry out of cut-up debit cards.

ASPSU website
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MasterCard Student IDs Incite Boycott and Walkout: Debates about Privacy and Privatization at Portla [19 Nov 2004|07:31pm]
Over 2,000 students at Portland State University are organized in a boycott and prepare for a walkout in protest of their new Campus ID Cards. The debit cards, emblazoned with a MasterCard logo, were mailed to students this week from the Connecticut-based "virtual bank" HigherOne. Students aim to have their university’s contract with Higher One terminated.

The cards will be used as a way to disburse financial aid monies and are seen by many as a startling step in the commercialization of the university. Due to budget crunches, universities nationwide face constant pressure to downsize and save money, and corporate sponsorship can appear as a panacea -- famous recent examples include UC Berkeley selling off the rights to its scientific research and Boise University naming its sports facility "Taco Bell Arena". Yet branding all students with a MasterCard and the outsourcing of student financial aid is a relatively new trend.

The decision to sign a contract with Higher One was made without any attempt to involve students in the process, including student representatives and organizations.

"Financial aid is sacred to many of us," said student Sascha Krader, "It's not like the privatization of other campus areas such as food services. It has a profound effect on student life."

Privacy issues are in the forefront of many students' minds. Without consent of students, and disregarding opposition by student representatives, the university has released all students' names and addresses to the bank, in addition to their date of birth and photograph. Higher One will use this information to distribute the new MasterCard ID Cards and solicit students to use their checking account. Higher One also invites merchants to solicit students through a customer rewards program. This release of information has inspired at least one student to file a lawsuit against the University and has aroused threats of legal action from many other students.

Others worry about "dataveillance" and the use of student tracking information.

"These payment cards enable massive surveillance and control of students. A major point of them is to collect transactional data for marketing," explained Chris Hoofnagle, Associate Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "But they can also be used to control student spending … by parents, for example."

Many are also disgruntled about the obligation to carry a card they may be opposed to philosophically: some students are upset about the MasterCard logo, while others are upset about HigherOne's affiliation with Diebold, the Ohio-based company most famous for its electronic voting machines.

Students claim that the bank account attached to the cards is low quality: deposits must be mailed to Texas, the "virtual bank" has no branches on the West Coast, and the fee schedule is up to 94% higher than those of local banks, the most notable of which is a $0.50 charge for every pin based transaction. Denise Wendler, the Director of Business Affairs at PSU and the employee responsible for signing the contract, recently stated that if she was a student she would use Direct Deposit over the HigherOne debit account.

Yet students are heavily encouraged to use the bank accounts: the official website, which all students are required to use, calls the accounts "easy refund" and says they are the "recommended" option.

“To get your financial aid disbursed to your own bank account, you have to specify that you don’t want the debit account several times during card activation,” said student Sam Rutledge, “That’s ridiculous and misleading. Serious concerns are raised when our university delivers us to a financial institution whose solicitation tactics are a step below spam marketers.”

HigherOne, started by a few recent graduates from Yale, has been in existence since 1999 and has 17 university clients, including Portland State University. According to the HigherOne website, they have handled some 354 million dollars since 2002. Other customers include the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Sam Houston University.

Over 2,000 PSU students have pledged to support the boycott. “We are going all the way with this boycott to get the contract terminated,” said student body president Christy Harper, “We are working with legislators and lobbyists at a state and federal level, in addition to working with key groups in our community.” The PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recently endorsed the boycott, and Harper pledges that “more organizations are on the way.” A statewide Day of Action against the cards, with a campus walkout and rally, is planned for November.

ASPSU website
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[13 Nov 2004|06:22pm]
MasterCard-Style ID Raises Tempers, Boycott at Portland State

Worries about privacy, privatization and high fees have driven students at Portland State University to boycott the replacement of their student IDs with debit cards. The contested cards, emblazoned with the MasterCard logo and issued by Connecticut-based “virtual bank” HigherOne, will be issued November 15.

High fees come first on a list of student concerns. The fees assessed by HigherOne are up to 94% higher than those of local banks, and HigherOne’s accounts do not accrue interest.

Many students also complain about lack of choice. Though HigherOne’s checking account is optional, the 61 percent of students who use financial aid are required to activate the card. Card activation was called "misleading" by some students, who lamented that HigherOne makes its checking account the default option for financial aid disbursement and requires you to “un-choose” it up to five times.

“Student financial aid is held hostage by this program,” said Ryan Klute, the student body vice president. “Regardless of the banks nearby, students are, by default, customers of HigherOne and MasterCard.”

Some students think that the Connecticut bank, which has no branches on the west coast, is a “bad fit” for PSU. Tense student forums questioned the suitability of a branch-free bank for PSU’s student body, while others wondered about a “rewards program” which awards prizes such as video games and mini-fridges to students who use their OneCards at selected merchants.

Students are also infuriated at being left out of the decision-making process. At Portland State, though talks between HigherOne and the university lasted for 18 months, students were unaware of the deal until the contract was signed. Many complain that the administration has violated the Oregon University System’s mandate of shared governance.

“Even if a person doesn’t get financial aid, they still have to use the card as their student ID. I really don’t feel like I have a choice at all,” said freshman Ryan Nelson, 21.

A similar deal between HigherOne and Southern Oregon State is on pause while student government investigates the contract. PSU will be the 13th customer of this “virtual bank”, which was founded by three 20-something Yale graduates in 1999. Other client universities include Sam Houston in Texas and the University of Wisconsin.

The boycott, announced last week, aims to get the Connecticut bank off PSU’s campus.

“A public institution has to privatize some things…but on this level, it’s so extreme. You have to react to something like that,” said Mike McGuffey, 18.

ASPSU website
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