As the next Feds AGM approaches, the question on everyone’s mind is: what do we do with WPIRG? Ever since the sever ties referendum earlier this year, opposition to the polarizing group has been mounting, and for good reason — many of the views advocated by WPIRG disagree with many students on campus. This has led to a growing camp of students that call themselves Opt-In UWaterloo, who argue that WPIRG should not collect their fees through Quest.</p>
They do make a compelling argument, and I do agree that they shouldn’t be represented by a group that doesn’t represent their views. However, there are two potential solutions to the problem of WPIRG being at odds with students, one of which is the aforementioned “defunding” of WPIRG. The other option, which appears to have been completely overlooked, is that if you disagree with what WPIRG advocates, then you should go and change what WPIRG advocates for.
But why should anyone bother doing this when they could just cut their lifeline from underneath them?
The argument in favour of keeping the WPIRG fee in Quest is twofold. First, it gives students an alternative to Feds, which is often constitutionally unable to advocate for certain positions when those positions subject them to an ideological or political bias. This is why a referendum on sever ties was held in the first place, and it’s the reason why the so-called “tyranny of the majority” prevailed on that matter. By having an on-campus advocacy group that can take sides on issues, it gives students a resource that can inform them on global and campus issues, and advocate on their behalf, even if doing so exposes them to bias.
The second reason is exactly contrary to the argument of Opt In — we should keep the WPIRG fee in place because it supports views we don’t agree with. A big part of Vote No’s argument against severing ties with Israeli institutions was that doing so was academically dishonest. But if severing Waterloo’s ties with Israeli universities because of ideological differences was academically dishonest, what do you call ceasing to fund WPIRG because of ideological differences? Is that not being academically dishonest not just to WPIRG, but to ourselves? Should we not instead be engaging WPIRG on issues we disagree with, instead of telling them to just go away?
I understand the antagonism against WPIRG and I get the angle that Opt-In UWaterloo is coming from, but I disagree that the right course of action is to simply wipe out views we disagree with. If you disagree with WPIRG, tell them so. Go to their meetings, and events and raise your disapproval with them, and you might change their opinion, or they might change yours. Either way, no one is being done a favour by ignoring the issues that WPIRG raises.
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Honours Economics Alumnus, 2015