OPIRG lacking, sent packing

This week, the local chapter of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) lost a referendum vote to receive an AMS opt-out fee, the second time in two years it’s been unsuccessful in this attempt. Both losses may be attributed to the fact that OPIRG has had to contend with NOPIRG, a campaign formed by some students opposed to their endeavour.

NOPIRG’s campaign has been misleading in the past, but the fight over OPIRG’s funding reached an ugly low when an anonymous flyer was distributed to mailboxes in the Student Ghetto in the lead-up to the vote. The flyer accused OPIRG of “anti-Semitism” and “violence”. NOPIRG leaders claim their campaign had no involvement with the distribution of the flyer.

It’s unfortunate that OPIRG lost their opt-out fee, as they are a constructive presence on campus and no more political than many other organizations that have similar fees. However, OPIRG hasn’t advocated their position effectively — they could stand to be more transparent and actively address NOPIRG’s arguments.

The tactic of last-second smears before elections is one that should be condemned. Those who made the flyers should be ashamed, as OPIRG’s inability to respond to these accusations brings the election results into question.

Since OPIRG’s out-optable fee was voted down, it’s tempting to condemn Queens’s students for falling for NOPIRG’s tactics, in addition to the exaggerated information on the anonymous flyer.

However, only 15.8 per cent of eligible students actually voted in the referendum, meaning that either NOPIRG managed to rally a small minority of students to their side, or most students were already opposed to OPIRG’s fee.

OPIRG members have been effectively intimidated from taking a stand, as no one likes to be smeared.

That said, OPIRG could stand to be more transparent and could actively promote their work, much of which is fairly benign.

OPIRG should have an opt-out fee. Much of the work they do is positive, and students who disagree with them could opt-out individually. NOPIRG is an unnecessary campaign that has sometimes used questionable tactics. However, despite their members’ legitimate feelings of intimidation, OPIRG should have made a better case for themselves.

— Journal Editorial Board

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