Commentary | Combating the QPIRG opt-out campaign’s misinformation

The Opt-Out campaign has three main points: QPIRG is anarchist and undemocratic, QPIRG hates Israel and Jews, and you can get a sandwich with the money you save. If you’re considering opting-out, I hope to dissuade you, but even if you’re not, this article is meant to give talking points for when you hear people (especially friends, acquaintances, or Opt-out campaigners) talking about it, and to encourage you to speak up.

It’s true that $3.75 will get you a sandwich or a beer. But it’s also true that Midnight Kitchen will feed you for free, and Campus Crops (a QPIRG working group whose legs are being cut from under them) will teach you how to ferment your own alcohol for the rest of your life.

McGill imparts a certain amount of privilege on its students simply through their attendance, and I believe that we thus hold a responsibility to contribute to our troubled world in a positive way. I feel the idea that we students are entitled to an extra sandwich, to the detriment of a social justice group like QPIRG, is horribly self-centred.

It’s true that QPIRG supports Tadamon! (an Arabic word that means “solidarity”), but if you take the time to read the About section of their website, you’ll find they explicitly oppose anti-Semitism, along with Islamaphobia. And if you take the opportunity to meet a Tadamon! member, you may gain a personal perspective on the Middle Eastern conflict.
Tadamon! is not anti-Semitic, and neither is QPIRG. They are anti-imperialist, and this is a position that I think is held by the majority of McGill students. Claiming they are otherwise only damages their funding, while generating more hate and ignorance – directly fuelling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That QPIRG is anarchist and anti-democratic is a contradiction. Organizing around anarchist principles means complete democracy through intolerance to oppression and opposition to power structures that impose upon people’s freedom. It’s the politics of freedom, and in this light, I believe most students would agree with it, but it is painted with burning buildings and smashed windows. QPIRG has no affiliation to such tactics, and if you took the time to engage them, you’d know this.

This is the ultimate problem with the opt-out campaign. QPIRG itself called for students to have the option to opt-out of the fees long before it was imposed – an opt-out that only required students come to the office, see what it was like, and then end their support permanently if they so chose.

So the problem isn’t with the opt-out. It’s with the campaign, and the ease with which some students can sell-out of their responsibility to social justice without learning a thing about it. Our planet has incredible diversity, distrust, and conflict. We are running out of resources and space, and our only chance for a bright future is cooperation. The first step to reconciliation is dialogue, and QPIRG strives to give a voice to those who often go unheard. University should expose students to the whole spectrum of ideas – and QPIRG is a very important part of that spectrum.

The opt-out campaign is one based on misinformation and ignorance driven by greed – if your politics force you to opt-out, I can’t change that. I only hope that your decision is informed.

Alex Briggs is a U2 Mechanical Engineering student. Write him at  ajhbriggs@gmail.com For more information about QPIRG, go to: http://qpirgmcgill.org/


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