OPIRG to appeal fee

Loss of $4 fee will change their operations

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OPIRG plans to appeal the referendum results that end their $4 AMS student fee.
Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
OPIRG plans to appeal the referendum results that end their $4 AMS student fee.

Kingston’s Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) is appealing the loss of their $4 opt-outable AMS student fee.

“Sure this a loss right now but it’s also a huge opportunity and we’re going to take advantage of it,” co-ordinator Kavita Bissoondial said. “Students voiced some real concerns with us and we’re going to take the time to take those seriously and address them.”

OPIRG lost their fee on Wednesday after 62 per cent of voters marked ‘no’ on their online ballot. The fee, which amounts to approximately $36,000 per year, makes up nearly half of OPIRG’s annual revenue. A NOPIRG campaign was launched on Jan. 24 to promote the cancellation of OPIRG’s fee.

“I’m still having a hard time believing that students voted against it,” Bissoondial, ArtSci ’10, said.

Bissoondial claimed NOPIRG campaigners violated campaign rules. She said OPIRG is in the process of appealing the result to the AMS’s judicial committee.

“It’s people who provide services for marginalized groups and that’s one of the effects that the loss of this fee will have,” Bissoondial said.

OPIRG provides $10,000 in annual grants to local groups.

“To not have a fee would severely restrict our capacity to provide the services we normally do,” said OPIRG board of directors member Kris Bergmann.

He said it was problematic that NOPIRG targeted Bissoondial’s $30,000 salary.

“A lot of the services we provide are only possible because we have someone to do all the logistics and the administrative work,” Bergmann, MPA ’12, said.

OPIRG Kingston, like other public interest research groups is mandated to run out of a university. OPIRG still receives $4.36 in opt-outable SGPS student fees.

“It’s part of our constitution that our board have a majority of students on it, and thats because it’s a student-directed and funded organization,” Bergmann said.

Bissoondial said she has stayed away from social media sites in the past few days because of the harassment she has received as a result of the NOPIRG campaign.

She said two letters had been written and posted online that blamed her for others’ suicidal thoughts.

“To be accused of being responsible for someone else’s thoughts of suicide, I’m still having a really hard time understanding the effect that it’s having on me,” she said. “This is my life that they’re messing with.”

Bissoondial, who has filed complaints with the AMS about the harassment, said her character has been tarnished by these online attacks.

“I do [my job] because it affects my life every day, because I am affected by homophobia, by racism and sexism and patriarchy,” she said. “I organize against these things not because I want to steal students’ money or win a fight against Conservative students.”

AMS vice-president of university affairs Kieran Slobodin, ArtSci ’12, said OPIRG’s loss of the AMS student fee has no impact on their space allocation as an AMS-ratified club.

He said under AMS policy, OPIRG won’t be allowed to bring their referendum fee question to the AMS annual general meeting.



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