An unidentified person or group hacked into the Quebec Public Interest Research Group’s (QPIRG) website last Tuesday, changing the group’s homepage, in what appears to be an escalation of the nearly two year old-campaign on the part of a range of student groups on campus to encourage student opt-outs from QPIRG’s $3.75 a semester student fee.
QPIRG could not confirm that last week’s hack was related to the opt-out campaign, saying they are still in the process of discovering what happened themselves.
Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan, a QPIRG board member, told The Daily, “The groups who have been organizing against QPIRG in the past are well known and have been pretty public about it. That is not to suggest that hacking came necessarily from those groups.”
Following the hack, the link on QPIRG’s website titled “Working Groups” sent users to a webpage for Tadamon!, a pro-Palestinian organization affiliated with QPIRG that labels Israel an apartheid state.
Clubs as diverse as Conservative McGill and the McGill Hellenic Students’ Association accuse QPIRG of supporting radical political positions that “mainstream” students would not naturally support.
Fliers encouraging students to opt-out of QPIRG’s student fee have also been left in buildings on campus, including Leacock and Redpath, throughout the past week.
Outgoing Conservative McGill President Jess Weiser did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment.
The opt-out campaign, officially luanched on September 15, has developed a well organized web infrastructure; the Facebook group “QPIRG: Opt-Out!” features a 50-second video guide to opting out of student fees, including QPIRG and “Vegan” [Midnight] Kitchen, as well as a six-step guide to the opt-out process on Minerva, which the Facebook page says takes “less than three minutes.”
The QPIRG Opt-Out Campaign circulated an open letter addressed to QPIRG last night, signed by Conservative McGill, Free the Children McGill Chapter, and Swiss Club McGill, among others, decrying some of the research group’s political positions as “bigoted.” The letter’s coda reads, “We will no longer contribute to an organization that promotes hate, rejects student input, and neglects its stated aims.”
Ronderos-Morgan said the efforts of the individuals and groups involved in the opt-out campaign are “disingenuous.”
“I find it kind of hilarious [that these groups use the arguments they do] because they receive money from SSMU and faculty associations,” said Ronderos-Morgan.
“Conservative McGill, for example, received $750 of student money last year from SSMU, and students had no option of whether or not they wanted to opt-out of that. A lot of students on campus don’t find conservative politics very appealing and yet their money is going to fund Conservative McGill. … Students don’t really have the option to opt-out of that because it makes sense for there to be funds available for groups to add to student life without having to do bake sales all the time.”
Echoing Ronderos-Morgan’s chagrin with the groups involved in the campaign, Anna Malla, Internal Coordinator at QPIRG, said “we are not opposed to students knowing how to opt-out, but we are opposed to the fact that there are fliers being distributed all over campus that don’t give any information about who we are.”
“Students are finding out about a way to save money as opposed to finding out about who we are and what we do,” she continued. “It is obviously not a campaign that is trying to inform students. It is a campaign that is trying to suck the money out of our organization.”