Our University’s independent student organizations face regular existence referendums in order to ensure that they retain the support of McGill’s student body. Two crucial campus organizations, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) and campus community radio station CKUT 90.3 FM, will be facing this process from November 4 to 10. It is important that students vote yes to ensure that these groups remain a part of our campus life.
QPIRG is a not-for-profit organization run by a mostly student volunteer Board of Directors. This organization deals with environmental and social justice issues through research, education, action, and funding of a wide variety of other campus groups. QPIRG’s initiatives include such events as Rad Frosh, which provides incoming first-year students with a socially conscious introduction to the McGill and Montreal communities, and support environmental working groups on campus like Campus Crops, Greening McGill, and Climate Justice Montreal.
Meanwhile, CKUT, which is governed with input from both McGill students and staff, provides a varied range of quality radio programming produced by and for the McGill and Montreal communities, broadcasting what is not covered by mainstream media outlets. CKUT is the only campus organization that provides students with the opportunity to learn about and be involved with radio production. CKUT programs include: All Things McGill, an eclectic show putting community members in touch with important events at McGill and William Shatner’s Whisky Tears, a music show featuring numerous student contributors.
In the past, both QPIRG and CKUT have faced marked cuts to their funding through online opt-outs of student fees. This issue has been greatly exacerbated by smear campaigns aimed at encouraging students to opt-out of their QPIRG fee. As a result of these circumstances, opt outs from both of these organizations have more than doubled over the last five years, creating funding consraints for QPIRG and CKUT.
In an attempt to combat decreased funding from opt-outs, both QPIRG and CKUT have decided to add opt-out system changes to their existence referendums, returning to the previous system and removing the option of opting-out of student fees online through Minerva. Instead, refunds would be available directly in person through each organization. While the motivation for this change is understandable, these measures are not in line with the open and accessible policies of these organizations.
While The Daily encourages students to vote ‘yes’, we feel that the way these opt-out modifications are being put forth is unfortunate, because it forces students who wish to support these organizations to also support the opt-out change. In addition, these changes were made without adequate student consultation. Taking the opt-out system offline would force students with gravely limited financial resources, who seriously need their student fees refunded, to make this a public declaration. Students shouldn’t have to publicly declare any aspect of their financial situation.
Because of these concerns, The Daily hopes that, should the existence referendums succeed, QPIRG and CKUT will publicly solicit student consultations regarding the opt-out system, along with a subsequent vote on the system that is not tied to either organization’s existence.
These caveats should by no means deter students from voting ‘yes’ in the existence referendums regarding QPIRG and CKUT. While the amendments to the opt-out system may not be ideal, these do not detract from the inherent worth of these two organizations. QPIRG and CKUT are both extremely valuable contributors to our campus communities, and must be supported by students so that they can continue to foster a plurality of student voices and experiences, and to enrich our campus community.