Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) will no longer collect a $4 opt-outable student fee. On Wednesday, 62 per cent of voters cast ballots against the fee that has been in place since 1992. Until now, it was successfully renewed every three years.
The OPIRG fee has been a divisive campus issue since the NOPIRG campaign launched on Jan. 24.
Both groups took to social media, with accusations of harassment from both sides appearing on Facebook and Twitter.
The situation quickly spiraled from an issue-based discussion to personal attacks. What should have been a rational debate about the value of OPIRG became a mud-slinging match.
After alleged hostilities, student constables were offered to each group during the campaign period for safety purposes. It reflects poorly on everyone involved.
Both sides could have asserted their viewpoints in an appropriate manner and let voters decide who was right. Instead, the credibility of both campaigns was called into question.
Students have every right to raise questions about OPIRG’s organization and purpose. As a recipient of student fees, OPIRG should be held accountable for the funds it receives. For many students, OPIRG has a vague and unclear mandate.
Questions about OPIRG are warranted, but attacking OPIRG’s sole employee for her salary was petty. The $30,000 that OPIRG’s co-ordinator Kavita Bissoondial earns falls below the average Canadian income of $31,500. It’s certainly not extravagant for a full-time working adult.
It would be more constructive to lobby OPIRG to change the way its employee is paid, rather than seek to abolish its student fee.
It was inappropriate for AMS Clubs Manager Craig Draeger to get involved with the NOPIRG campaign. Draeger took a three-day leave of absence from his post to support NOPIRG, but his ability to remain neutral with OPIRG after returning to work is now in jeopardy. While being called-out on the Internet isn’t easy, responding to it only gives it attention and power.
The campaign against OPIRG gave the group an opportunity to assert themselves and make it known what function they perform on campus and in the greater Kingston community.
If OPIRG ever wants to get its $4 opt-outable fee back, they need to prove themselves to students.
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