Dear Opt-In UWaterloo supporters, we would like to begin this statement by thanking everyone who came out to the general meeting (GM) or who sent us a proxy to vote on their behalf. Your support is critical to our goal of turning WPIRG into a consent-based, opt-in organization where only undergraduates who choose to pay the fee do so. Your presence at the GM was inspiring and helped us see just how much support we really have here on campus. </p>
Although the motion at the GM failed, we will continue working towards our goal of calling a referendum to give all students a real choice in this matter. Based on the countless conversations we have had, the thousands of messages we have received, and the hundreds of proxies sent to us over the past couple of weeks, we believe that the vast majority of students who voted against the motion do not support the lack of democracy; rather, we believe many voted against the motion because they were misled by WPIRG as to what the motion really was. While WPIRG claims the motion’s purpose was to defund them, in reality, the purpose was to have a referendum gauging student support for a modification to the fee structure.
Going forward, we would like to address a number of things that occurred, both leading up to and during the GM. First of all, a certain comment made during the GM by a member of the WPIRG board of directors stated that Opt-In UWaterloo has “continuously and repeatedly made sexist and homophobic and islamophobic remarks online, against students on this campus, and whether these remarks have been made online or in person is irrelevant.” This claim is entirely false and is slander. There have been absolutely no remarks of the sort, either in person or online made by Opt-In UWaterloo. We are very proud of the clean and insult-free campaign we are running, and condemn these false remarks made in an attempt to discredit our movement. We also object to the statements made by WPIRG supporters that Opt-In UWaterloo is largely composed of “Jews and Conservatives” and “Trump supporters” as well as other similar comments stereotyping Opt-In UWaterloo organizers and supporters. Opt-In UWaterloo is composed of a diverse group of organizers and supporters of various backgrounds, genders, and orientations, with a wide range of political and religious views, all united by a single cause. To paint all Opt-In UWaterloo supporters in this way is both false and misleading, and yet another cheap shot made in an attempt to discredit our movement.
We next want to address the way in which WPIRG has approached this GM. WPIRG sent out private emails to their members asking them to come and shut down the referendum motion at the GM. Although not directly in violation of the Feds bylaws, this goes against transparency and the basic premises of democracy in allowing all students to decide whether or not the fee should be opt-in. Opt-In UWaterloo will continue to be transparent in all its proceedings, advertising all events, actions, and progress publicly.
We also want to address the way in which WPIRG obtained its proxies. WPIRG has obtained proxies by campaigning in the SLC without prior permission from Feds, and by hijacking tables from groups, such as the Filipino Students Association. Even after being asked to leave multiple times by an SLC manager for breaking the Feds Marketplace rules, they stayed in order to gather as many proxies as they possibly could. This alone shows that the support obtained by WPIRG for the GM was gathered in an unfair manner. If WPIRG is so confident that the majority of students support them, they shouldn’t fear a referendum asking all students if they support the reform of the WPIRG funding system.
Opt-In UWaterloo is a grassroots organization made up of students like you, with no funding, running against a well-funded organization (paid for with more than $260,000 per year in student fees) with multiple full-time staff and very questionable motives. With that in mind, although our motion failed at the GM, it was a great learning experience for us helping us understand how student politics works and the real student support for the Opt-In movement. We will take the lessons learned from the GM and apply them to our endeavours going forward.
The Opt-In organizers are currently looking into other ways of calling the referendum to ask all students whether or not the WPIRG fee should be Opt-In, and will continue working to achieve this. We appreciate the ongoing messages of encouragement and support, and urge all of our supporters to like our Facebook page found at optinuw.com to keep-up-to date with our progress. We are just getting started in the fight to make the WPIRG fee opt-in, and will continue to fight as long as we have support from the greater undergraduate student body.
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