Director had early access to rec votes

The student vote on renovations and additions for Recreation Services was not conducted in complete secrecy. Mike Harvey, director of Recreation Services, had access to the results of the vote while it was occurring and e-mailed the results to a number of Rec Services senior staff members and administration officials from the Dean of Students Office.

Harvey said it is standard practice for those conducting surveys and research through IT Services to have access to the results.

“It’s something that they do for others, as I understand it, that are doing research and other surveys on campus,” he said.

Harvey said he was the only one with access to the votes, but he did share the results of the vote with other staff members.

A meeting was also held with members of Rec Services to discuss the results of the vote.

“It wasn’t a meeting called to influence the vote, it was a meeting to talk to the staff about where the vote was at that particular time,” he said.

“Part of that question was if there was anything that was significant that came to light that needed to be corrected in terms of the respondents who were under the wrong impression or the wrong understanding of the project, that at that point, we may want to do some sort of additional educational aspect,” he said.

Dione Somerville, dean of students, said she didn’t remember that additional education was an issue.

“The referendum committee, the students, felt that they had done pretty much everything they could to let students know about the project,” she said.

However, it was decided to not make changes.

As for the meeting Harvey had with some of his staff when the polls were still open, Somerville said she could not remember if she had been aware of it.

“There were so many different ones that happened throughout the process,” she said.

Harvey said the vote was locked and he couldn’t manipulate any of the results. He said he didn’t think seeing the vote had any impact on its outcome.

He said he didn’t know if Brian Phillips, former GSB president and senior in political science, would recall whether there was an agreement about who would be receiving updates on the vote before it closed.

Phillips said he was aware that members of Recreation Services were going to have access to the vote, but he was not aware that Somerville; Todd Holcomb, associate vice president for student affairs; and Tom Hill, vice president for student affairs, would have access.

Phillips said there had been discussions with members of GSB and the Graduate Professional Student Senate and the Rec Services administration over whether it would be appropriate for the members of Rec Services to have access to the votes as they were coming in to ensure the votes were being recorded correctly, under the condition that no action would be taken.

Phillips said it would make sense for Somerville, Holcomb and Hill to have access, because Rec Services is under the student affairs office.

A student referendum committee was appointed by Rec Services to help market the process.

A total of $14,747 was spent on marketing and education ideas that the committee developed.

Nathan Pick, graduate co-chairman of the student referendum committee and graduate student in educational leadership and policy studies, said one of the things the committee was able to do was advertise on the Cy-Ride buses to get external advertising. The committee was able to bypass the waiting list and got billed at a lower rate than the ad usually costs. The waiting list for Cy-Ride advertising usually sits at six months, but it can be as long as 18 months, said a Houck employee.

“We contacted a couple of people [Todd Holcomb and Tom Hill] in upper administration to see, since Cy-Ride is funded by student fees and this was a student issue that needed to be portrayed to students, to see if there was any way for a two-month period to get two buses with signs on them.”

Tom Houck, of Houck Transit Advertising, said the reason the student referendum committee was able to get around the waiting list for external bus advertising was that another client had a delay in artwork for their ad.

Houck said when this kind of delay happens, often there is only a short period available for advertising.

“See, most people want longer term, but just to go on for one month or six weeks doesn’t appeal to them,” Houck said. “We knew that this was just a short-term thing, so it happened to work out.”

He said the student referendum committee did not get a rate that was out of the ordinary.

“If they were not a nonprofit, we would have quoted them our regular price,” he said.

Houck said there was not anything out of the ordinary with the way that he dealt with the student referendum committee.

“I remember talking to them and it wasn’t any big deal. It was just that they happened to call at a time when I knew there was going to be space available. This is what we do. If anybody would have called at that point, we would have given it to them,” Houck said.

Reed Clayton, member of the student referendum committee and senior in marketing, is the head building coordinator for the Recreation Services.

“I’m one of two head building coordinators. We are the top-ranking student employees with facilities operations, so we oversee all of the other student employees,” Clayton said.

He said he was on the committee because he’s been interested in the project since its conception.

“I sat in on a focus group a couple of years ago when the consultants came to talk. And on that committee, there were faculty members from around the university, there were students, both Rec Services employees and non. There were also coaches on that focus group, as well,” he said.

Clayton said he couldn’t remember who asked him to participate in the group, but said it was either Harvey, Andy Laughlin, program assistant for Rec Services, or Garry Greenlee, associate director for Rec Services.

He said he helped come up with the idea for the T-shirt, the logo, the water bottle and the video produced by the student referendum committee.

He said he didn’t have access to the comments people made after they’d voted, but he was under the impression that there was a lot of misinformation.

“It seemed like there were a lot of people out there that thought that they were going to be charged fees without access to the new facilities, but that isn’t true. As a member of a committee that has the goal of educating the population, I feel like we put out as much as we knew how, given our experience on such a committee. I mean, it was all volunteer effort, nobody had really done anything like it before, so I think there are things we could have improved on, but not without knowing ahead of time,” Clayton said.

Andrew Boekelman, former GSB senator and senior in sociology, said he didn’t think the educational campaign was objective. He said no one involved in the referendum committee was opposed to the project.

To provide the student referendum committee funding, Boekelman said, “obviously that is going to drastically affect the outcome.” Along with the money and the backing of department heads, it’s will help with the group achieve what it wants accomplished.

“It was educating, it was also promoting it,” he said.

Phillips defended the group.

“At no point was the educational campaign designed to sway any votes, it was designed to merely educate the student body about the details of the project,” he said.

Phillips thought the educational campaign was a success, despite the number of comments that mentioned inaccurate information. Phillips said the committee may have driven more students to vote yes, but not because of any sort of intentional “vote yes” campaign.

“Clearly, if there hadn’t been an educational campaign, and students just received an e-mail on, in late February directing them to a voting Web site where they would vote on that referendum, I think that a significant amount of students would have voted no, simply because they didn’t understand it,” he said.

Phillips said the opposition groups that were formed were due to the fact the educational campaign was putting the information out there.

Boekelman took issue with the laptops that were put in the Lied Recreation Athletic Center during the vote. He said because they were set up in an area where people would most likely be voting for the renovations, it affected the eventual outcome of the vote, as well as the funding the referendum committee received.

“The thing that really I found most offensive is the fact that Harvey had access – Mike Harvey had access to the results before anyone else did,” Boekelman said.

“When a group has that kind of information, it allows them to really sway the vote,” he said.

Harvey said laptops were given to Rec Services by the Dean of Students Office and he didn’t think that it influenced the vote.

Joseph Isenberg, graduate student in history and founder of the Facebook group “I oppose the ISU Recreation renovation” said he views the group as his contribution to the public conversation on the issue.

Isenberg said one of his major concerns with the project was the lack of explanation surrounding what type of bond the university was going to obtain in order to pay for the project.

He also said he would also be interested in learning what questions the original student survey contained.

“I’m sure it would be very interesting to find out what the questions were on those surveys and subject them to, essentially, the analysis you would give to find out if it is going to be statistically valid,” Isenberg said. “Because, of course, if you ask if they would like nicer facilities, no one is going to vote that down.”

He said the questions should be phrased in a manner that implied that cost of such renovations.

“The question has to be, would you like to pay for those nicer facilities, and how much? Because, of course, there’s a trade up. You know, I would like to be surrounded with candy and chocolate all the time, but I simply cannot afford this,” Isenberg said. “Would you like nicer facilities if you had to pay $10 for them? Would you like to pay if you had a 25 percent increase in student fees? Would you like nicer facilities if you had to pay, essentially, an unlimited amount for them?”

He said the university was treating the issue with a sense of entitlement, and the point of a new recreation center and improvements to the old ones were not about students.

“They are entitled because someone wants it as a recruiting tool. Is it for the students who are here currently? No, it’s so they can show this to future exploitees. It’s so the athletic department can have a nice place for their students to practice. It’s so that professional merit staff can fix up their health club. It’s so that Mike Harvey can have career bragging rights.”