Recently, after the failed Sever Ties referendum, WPIRG has been a hot topic. They have been opposed by Opt-In UWaterloo, which seeks to change WPIRG’s funding structure from its current system to an opt-in system, in which those intent on funding WPIRG can do so (with no onus on others). In the recent Feds general meeting, Opt-In motioned to put the decision to a referendum. This motion generated a large turnout on both sides, but was rejected by attendees. </p>
I attended the meeting and was inspired to write this piece due to the mischaracterizations of Opt-In that I’ve seen both on campus and in the recent “There’s nothing to be gained by killing WPIRG” opinion piece published in Imprint.
The most severe mischaracterization occurred during the discussion of the proposed referendum where it was alleged that Opt-In supporters harassed WPIRG supporters using various epithets. Despite swift condemnation by Opt-In organizers, such slander is plainly meant to characterize not just possible fringe elements, but the entire group as bigoted neanderthals. Ignoring the pettiness of such ad hominems, the reality is that no group is free of bigots — even WPIRG. The only common goal of Opt-In advocates is the referendum. Such bigoted views are not characteristic.
The second claim is that we wish to kill WPIRG. We simply seek to give students choice by making the fee opt-in. While this plausibly would remove the funding WPIRG enjoys, I am of the opinion that a group truly in the public interest should have no issue petitioning students and Feds for funding (as most other student groups are required to do, short of societies, endowment funds, and Imprint). A common rebuttal is that the fee is technically optional — provided you take the time out of your day to go to their remotely located office, with its onerous hours (for $5, no less).
However, assume for a moment that you disagree with the actions of WPIRG, and attend meetings in an effort to change it (as they suggest). Ignoring that they only occur twice a term, I imagine that despite their supposedly open invitation, if you were to suggest a motion at their meetings that contradicts the general consensus (say, advocating Israel), you would find yourself quickly unwelcome. Per the aforementioned opinion piece, WPIRG is steadfastly non-neutral. Said article asserts that this is a strength which allows students to take action that the neutral Feds cannot. I instead assert that by taking sides and, at the same time, drawing funds from all students, they unjustly assert one side’s views over the other.
But perhaps this is far too political — practically, what’s the problem? WPIRG doesn’t necessarily represent all students, but it still does good. The practical reason for WPIRG to be opt-in is that little of its productive work can be shifted to a separate pre-existing on-campus group under the Feds umbrella, such as GLOW or the Women’s Centre (and, of course, your fees will be reduced should you not opt-in).
But for those of you who support WPIRG, I ask: If WPIRG is truly in the public interest, why do you fear leaving the decision of its fate to the public?
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3A Civil Engineering