The Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) will no longer get $4.36 from each Queen’s student after 62 per cent of voters in last week’s referendum supported eliminating the fee.
OPIRG and its individual branches have been controversial on Canadian campuses for promoting what critics say are left-wing political causes that don’t reflect the wider community’s beliefs.
The Public Interest Research Groups at more than one Canadian university have been criticized for supporting Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual event that encourages sanctions against Israel.
Stuart Clark, who organized the anti-OPIRG campaign, made a similar argument that student’s fees shouldn’t go to political causes. After winning, he posted this on the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association’s Facebook wall: “We took down OPIRG. I think celebrations are in order!”
It’s no secret that the PC Campus Association encourages abolition of OPIRG fees.
But Kavita Bissoondial, the Kingston coordinator of OPIRG, insisted to the Queen’s Journal that the group is not allied with the left. “The issues that OPIRG works on, those being social and environmental justice,” she said, “are not left issues but they’re issues that affect everyone.”
After losing, Bissoondial defended her $30,000 salary. “I do [my job] because… I am affected by homophobia, by racism and sexism and patriarchy,” she told the Journal. “I organize against these things not because I want to steal students’ money or win a fight against Conservative students.”
Queen’s students could opt out of the fee, but that required that they understood where their fees were going early in the semester and that they put in the time and effort required to get refunds.
The fee raised roughly $36,000 per year, which is nearly half of the local OPIRG’s budget.