Commentary  Opt-in to campus diversity

Campaigns to opt-out of student fees threaten campus vibrancy

The perennial QPIRG student fee opt- out campaign has returned this year to paint a misleading portrait of QPIRG that threatens campus vibrancy. The Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill is a non-profit, student-run group that provides funding for research and education on social justice issues, as well as an alternative library and meeting space for student groups. QPIRG’s projects give voice to marginalized peoples and address topics that are too often ignored. QPIRG is an anti-racist and anti-imperialist organization whose working groups include KANATA, which provides a space for discussion and research on issues affecting First Nations peoples and groups; Montreal Media Co-op, which offers grassroots coverage of political and social movements; and END EXPLOITATION, which seeks to ensure quality workplace standards for temporary and foreign workers.

The undergraduate fee for QPIRG is $7.50 a year. Opt-out campaigners advertised that one could choose not to pay this fee and buy three episodes of The Hills. This is entirely true: the same amount of money can pay for three television episodes, which can entertain you for a few hours, or fund an organization that provides space, resources, events, work study positions, and services for the student population for an entire semester. The opt-out campaign has alleged that QPIRG does not enjoy mainstream student support, yet, the fact that QPIRG has survived multiple existence referendums since 1988 proves the inaccuracy of that claim.

QPIRG is not the only valuable organization that is hurt by opt-outs. Midnight Kitchen, Nightline, TVMcGill and CKUT are opt-outable; so is the SSMU Environment Fund – which has funded groups like Ghetto Shul, Farmer’s Market at McGill, and the Desautels Business Conference on Sustainability – and the SSMU Library Fund, which provides money for extended library hours and services

University should be an environment in which students can learn outside of the classroom and have the opportunity to engage in discussion about political and social ideas. This can only be achieved with a plurality of voices on campus, including those that may be characterized as radical, showcasing the diversity of thought in the student body. Opting out of paying fees to fund fellow students’ initiatives undermines support of this diversity, divides the McGill community, and silences student voices.

Students considering opting out should first educate themselves on how the these groups effect campus life. The option to opt out should exist so that students who are less financially stable have the option to save the money they need, not so that groups can take funds from their ideological opposition. Regardless of one’s political views or opinons, to opt out of these fees is to deny fellow students access to the resources that make our campus vibrant, diverse, and accessible to our peers.

Due to an editorial error, the printed version of this article stated that the QPIRG fee is $7.50 a semester; rather, it is $7.50 a year