With the positive results of their respective existence referenda questions voided by the administration three weeks ago, CKUT intends to field another referendum question this winter. QPIRG, however, does not.
The administration cited a lack of clarity in both questions as the justification for its decision. In an email to The Daily, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson said that, in the past, “some fee referenda have not been implemented, because they also lacked clarity.”
Kira Page, a member of the QPIRG Board of Directors, said QPIRG is still trying to get last semester’s referendum results recognized.
“We’ve just been sitting down with Mendelson and his negotiation team in the last couple of weeks to explore other options,” said Page.
“We’re not currently looking into the possibility of running another referendum,” she continued.
QPIRG’s referendum results have also been challenged by students Zach Newburgh and Brendan Steven in a Judicial Board (J-Board) case. In a press release, Newburgh and Steven said they shared “serious concerns about the integrity of the referendum process.”
SSMU Council suspended the case until further notice last week, however, citing a need to clarify the relationship between the SSMU Board of Directors and the J-Board in the Society’s Constitution.
“[The J-Board] is part of the student democratic process for people who want to challenge the referendum results,” said Page, who added that the administration has “no right” to void the results.
“We had 132 students on our campaign who worked so hard and tirelessly,” continued Page. “We think it’s very disrespectful to the work of those people to do it all again.”
According to Page, QPIRG is committed to its current funding model, and is not looking into other financial sources.
“We’re not interested in turning into an NGO that is always scrambling for funding and applying for grants,” said Page, “especially in the context of the kind of political situation we are in Canada, where funding is being cut anyway.”
CKUT Funding and Outreach Coordinator Caitlin Manicom said the radio station does not currently have the financial capacity to legally contest the University on the case.
Manicom maintained that CKUT’s referendum results were valid, however.
“The administration should recognize the results of that vote,” she said, “especially given the fact that the University…has no legal right to unilaterally interfere with the administration of [our fees].”
According to Manicom, CKUT will be running two questions in the winter referendum period. One question will seek to affirm student support for their continued existence, and the other will ask that their fee become non-opt-outable.
“It is crucial that we become non-opt-outable,” said Manicom. “It is otherwise impossible for us to balance our books, while offering the types of events and opportunities to students that we currently do.”
Differences between the respective organizations’ Memoranda of Agreement (MoA) with McGill underlie their respective strategies.
“We need to maintain a working relationship with the administration because we depend on them to deliver those fees to us, as per our MoA,” said Manicom.
In the station’s last MoA negotiations five years ago, McGill withheld CKUT’s fees until it agreed to drop “McGill” from its name.
McGill has given the two groups have until February 16 to submit student-initiated referendum questions.