In Spring 2017 the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG) levy will be removed from automatic student fees.

This Sunday, Feb. 5 2017, the Federation of Students Council passed a motion urging the University of Waterloo (UW) and its affiliates to cut ties, and specifically lease agreements, with WPIRG. As we will discuss, this is a motion that disrespects student voice by extending beyond existing concerns voiced by students, and assuming extreme adaptations of the will of students regarding WPIRG and the WPIRG fee.

The stated mission of the UW “Opt-in” group has been to change WPIRG’s funding structure from an automatic opt-out student levy to one dependent on students opting-in (thus the name “Opt-in”). As of the September 2016 referendum in which students voted to remove the automatic fee, the mission to this end has been met.

On repeat occasions, advocates of the fee removal have denied the intent to destroy WPIRG wholly. The above motion pushes and disregards the scope of the mandate from a referendum in which students were asked not if they wish to remove WPIRG, but the WPIRG fee. The above motion appears to wish to remove WPIRG from existence wholly. More than irresponsible, the motion signals a political agenda, and is a direct attack on the physical space and office vital to an organization supporting students of marginalized identities.

Further, not one councillor, neither he who authored the motion nor those who voted in favour of it, approached us (student volunteers and board members at WPIRG) for a discussion. Some councillors voted against, abstained, or were absent. Once again, this shows such lack of interest in making an informed vote so unfortunately unfit for the powers and responsibilities of a student representative. The entire executive team abstained on the basis of what we understand to be legal concerns.

Lastly and most importantly, where are the councillors’ mandate from students, and not personal interests or the opinions of private contacts, in prioritizing such a motion in place of other student concerns? And in considering the motion, what inspires or guides the vote of a councillor in fairly representing their constituents? We urge students and Feds to consider the severe lack of mechanisms by which decisions can currently be measured and made accountable.

The WPIRG Board