OPIRG presses on

Seven months after their student fee was voted down, the group is looking toward the future

OPIRG continues to occupy space in the Grey House.
OPIRG continues to occupy space in the Grey House.

The Kingston branch of the Ontario Public Interest Group (OPIRG) won’t give up on their mission to serve the community and the University despite their loss of funding, OPIRG Coordinator Kavita Bissoondial said.

OPIRG lost their $4, opt-outable fee after 62 per cent of voters cast ballots against the fee in a February referendum, following a campaign by NOPIRG, a group that opposed the fee.

OPIRG filed an appeal against the campaign through the Chief Elections Office, on Feb. 4, because of what they believed to be violations of the Policy Manual committed during the campaign.

The organization still receives $12,000 in funding from SGPS and $12,000 from an agreement with other Ontario public interest research groups, Bissoondial, ArtSci ’10, said the loss of the $36,000 AMS fee has had an impact on their work.

The organization had to re-budget and cut costs. They’ll only have enough funds to continue for this current year at the level they do now. During this time they’ll have to find other sources of funding to support their programs and staff.

Rad Frosh, an annual month-long Orientation Week alternative was cancelled this year because of the reductions.

Bissoondial said it wasn’t only the group’s financial status that was affected by the referendum; students’ perception of the group also changed, both for better and for worse.

While the NOPIRG campaign negatively influenced students unfamiliar with the group, volunteer interest has actually increased in number, Bissoondial said.

OPIRG is continuing to look for ways to meet the needs of the community and Queen’s the best they can, she added.

Current projects include researching and generating policies to to create more childcare options for parents at Queen’s and in the community. The program is set to start this fall.

Additionally, the organization is renewing and promoting the People’s History Project, an archive of local activists history, which is found within the Grey House.

“We want to continue supporting the initiatives of students and community members,” Bissoondial said. “That’s really our role, to take what students want and make it a reality.”

The organization still anticipates opposition from the NOPIRG campaign when their fee with SGPS goes up for renewal this year.

“We see that as an ongoing challenge,” she said. “We have a lot of support from the graduate student community … our relationship with grad students is really different than our relationship with undergraduate students.”

The organization is currently being run through the Grey House. Bissoondial said they will continue to do so until a new process is put in place between the AMS, SGPS and the University to allocate spaces for shared clubs between them.


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