Following a referendum that demonstrated students’ desire to make the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG)’s student fee opt-in only, the $4.75 fee was discontinued Feb. 7 by UW’s Board of Governors.
This is not the first time a referendum regarding the WPIRG fee has been enacted, but the most recent one happened after WPIRG organized a referendum to gauge student interest in severing ties with Israeli institutions. When the referendum failed, a group of students began a new campaign to stop the WPIRG student fee from being charged automatically.
After the WPIRG referendum passed Sept. 29, Feds President Chris Lolas stated that he would bring the referendum results to the university’s Board of Governors, as they control policies for students.
“Generally speaking, if it doesn’t really affect the university’s budget, they’ll listen to whatever students [have to say],” Lolas said at the time.
Lolas did bring up the WPIRG fee at the Board of Governors meeting in October, however the fee was not removed at that time.
At the Nov. 20 student council meeting, a motion was made to censure Lolas. The censure was intended to express student discontent that the fee would not be removed by the winter 2017 term, but the motion failed. At the time, math councillor Mistry Harsh felt that “[after] the referendum happened, there was just silence … the entire executive team went silent on the issue [and] didn’t exactly communicate.”
After much wait, the Board of Governors discontinued the WPIRG fee, effective spring 2017, with no discussion, according to a tweet made by Board of Governors member Tristan Potter.
When asked for his opinion on the matter, Potter said he does not think the Board of Governors should have discussed the matter, as “the Board of Governors is concerned with the University of Waterloo’s high level functioning and risk management, not the fees students want to pay to third-party groups.”
“I think a discussion on what the university will do to maintain and improve the experiences of marginalized groups on campus is in order, especially since our university has a number of diversity goals,” Potter added.
Potter also said that he thinks fees will be an ongoing issue with the student body.
“The main issue with the removal of this fee was the way the discussion was framed,” Potter said. “It could have been a great opportunity to talk about whether we as a campus believe in the idea of a student group focused on social and environmental advocacy, but instead we got two groups of students attacking each other.”
Tristan Potter, who was interviewed for this article, is a member of Imprint’s Board of Directors. Potter’s opinions do not represent the views of the Federation of Students, Imprint Publications, the University of Waterloo, or the views of any directors, governors, or officers thereof.