Commentary | Right to choose

Before you prepare yourself for an earnest defense of women’s rights, I should warn you: this article is not about abortion, it’s about QPIRG. I suspect many Daily readers would agree with me that women have the right to choose what to do with their bodies, but likely far fewer would concur that students have the right to choose what to do with their student fees. Yet, the underlying ethical issue is the same. By opting out of my QPIRG fees, I am exercising my right to choose to act in a way congruent with my conscience.

A conscientious objector is an individual who refuses to serve on the grounds of conscience or freedom of thought. In the 1960s, the McGill campus was overrun with American youth who objected to serving in Vietnam. The University embraced free thinkers who defied the status quo in order to be true to their beliefs. Admittedly, paying $3.75 a semester is not the same as going to war. Yet, when faced with any ethical quandary, we owe it to ourselves to carefully consider whether to float with the status quo or whether to be true to our beliefs.

Certainly, I agree that there’s a role for the ideas QPIRG articulates on campus. University is meant to be an environment in which opinions are bandied, voices raised. “I may not agree with what you say,” Voltaire is reputed to have said, “but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” But what this great enlightened philosopher did not support was mandatory financing for your opponents’ working groups. Student fees should go toward keeping the lights on, the library stocked, and the professors professing. Legitimate student fees allow the University to provide an environment in which knowledge can be acquired, opinions formulated, and ideas discussed. Legitimate student fees do not go toward funding the promotion of a specific political agenda. No matter what that agenda is.

Funding for QPIRG is different from that of other campus political groups. Most campus political groups – such as NDP, Liberal, Green, or Conservative McGill – obtain their funding by applying to SSMU. If successful, these groups obtain limited grants of a few hundred dollars per year, allowing them to support internal events. QPIRG, on the other hand, operates on an approximately $150,000 annual budget funded by a separate fee on our student bills. QPIRG uses its funding to support external activism for radical causes. Funding the “Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble,” an anarchist street band, ain’t the same as hosting a wine and cheese in the Shatner Building.

With due consideration, I exercise my right to choose: paying for QPIRG is not for me. I conscientiously object.

Eleanor Vaughan is a U3 Political Science student, a member of Conservative McGill, and Secretary-General of SSMU. The opinions expressed here are her own. She can be reached at eleanor5vaughan@gmail.com.


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