QPIRG Is In Need of Reform
An on-campus student service should not be so narrow in its focus
30 Nov, 2011 3:21
Many ought to find this deeply troubling if not shameful and must ask how a referendum meant to allow students to debate whether or not to continue funding a particular service became a tool for an organization to pursue its agenda and elevate itself above its peers like the SSMU charity fund. A decision like this did not simply fall from the sky; it was borne out of a SSMU assembly resolution to modify a process that has since 1971 been first and foremost concerned with validating QPIRG’s work and not aiding it in its operations. Those who read my earlier article A more Natural Curriculum would see this as a clear act of positivism, in which far-reaching decisions aren’t based in any ideology that’s meant to guide students over generations. Rather, it’s merely a response to a specific event, namely the loss of funds since McGill made it possible to opt-out of all fees online. There has yet to be an argument that establishes why QPIRG deserves such special treatment, although there have been QPIRG’s noticeable efforts in solidifying its status as a necessary service.
Benefits that QPIRG claims to provide include facilitating alternative student-led research. Such, in fact, was the purpose behind QPIRG’s foundation. But a copy of their recent annual report suggests nothing of the sort. By their admission on frequent occasions, QPIRG’s efforts are largely based in “responding to attacks to its existence” and curbing the financial losses it had recently experienced. These are exemplified by the hiring of volunteer and fundraising coordinators as opposed to professionals who perhaps would contribute to research efforts. Furthermore, one can’t help but balk at the lack of explanation behind events like an “anti-oppression session” held for board members. What does such a session entail and how does it facilitate the research that QPIRG claims to support? The same must be asked of other events like Radical Frosh, an alternative orientation for freshman to discuss “social, political, and environmental issues,” or Social Justice Days, where different clubs are brought together to discuss diverse issues as the effects of the Alberta Tar Sands on Native American life or how to mobilize students against tuition hikes and austerity measures. In each of these examples, all QPIRG seems to be doing is funding outlets where students can voice and disseminate their particular views. They are merely encouraging activism that advocates their opinions and in no instance do they provide noteworthy or ground-breaking solutions to existing problems as research hopes to do.
These services certainly provide no benefit to anyone who is not affiliated or supportive of these clubs. Indeed, many students are continuously embarrassed and disgusted that QPIRG would fund an organization like Tadamon!, which uses “justice in the middle east” as a guise for supporting a terrorist organization like Hezbollah which is first and foremost concerned with killing Jews. In fact, Tadamon! has frequently argued for Hezbollah’s removal from the Canadian government’s list of terrorist groups. But by now, everyone should know this and people ought to question QPIRG’s existence as a middle-man if they do support the dissemination of these opinions. Is it too much to ask of students that that they fund narrow activism without forcing their peers to do so as well?
I don’t think so. QPIRG has not proven itself in any way as being fundamental to student life because it does not produce anything unique and of stand-alone substance. All it does is funnel money towards pre-existing organizations with an agenda to push. And if students wish to support certain politics, they are more than welcome to do so but without my financial support until such time as QPIRG can demonstrate that it is a true forum for debate, learning, and can present real research. Otherwise, the organization meant to provide students of all views with the resources to develop solutions to society’s problems will continue to be an outpost for passé fringe views. What a shame for an institution that I consider both a literal and proverbial example of a beacon on a hill. Hopefully in five years students will demand nothing less of its campus clubs and student services.