On Sunday March 13th, the Federation of Students Council passed a motion announcing the official stance of the council on the WPIRG referendum. In summary, FEDS says to vote "No", or to not terminate the collection of the WPIRG fee. As a math co-op student councillor, as YOUR student councillor, I fought this motion with every reasonable argument I could.
I know that many of you signed the petition. I know that many of you have concerns in the way the WPIRG fee is collected, the way in which the WPIRG fee is used, the projects WPIRG supports, and fundamentally who WPIRG represents. I told student council that the voice of my constituency was clear. 11% of Waterloo students signed this petition. Clearly this is a controversial and divisive issue. This councillor was NOT willing to accept a NO stance.
That is to say, this EX-councillor was not willing to accept the actions of council. Burdened by an oppressive stance I did not support, and fully believing enough of my constituency did not support this same stance, I resigned and left the meeting to write this article. If the FEDS is willing to force their opinions on me despite my sincerest objections, then I have no choice but to remove myself from the organization. But the fight is NOT over.
An amendment was brought forward that effectively watered down the original motion. The amendment justified the stance, saying that FEDS believes this is not the appropriate way to deal with refundable fees. Specifically, a few years ago a FEDS committee suggested reforms to the ways ancillary/incidental/refundable fees are collected. The report of the committee was not even ACCEPTED by council. When directly asked if President-Elect Anderson would commit to addressing the issues of refundable fees in his coming term, he explicitly said he could not commit at this time. I ask all students now: if this referendum is not the correct place to deal with refundable fees, can we trust our student government to find one? I have no confidence they can.
Indeed, FEDS will have you believe that there is a blanket solution for dealing with refundable fees. This is incorrect. Refundable fees truly should be decided on an organization by organization basis. If you do not believe you should give YOUR money to WPRIG, or do not like the way in which YOUR money is collected for this purpose, you have a responsibility to vote "YES".
Do not let the amendment blind you to the facts. At least one councillor believes that this referendum is the biggest threat to student life seen in the past three years. Members of FEDS do support WPIRG. I believe that some members of council allowed the wool to be pulled over their eyes, and accepted this amendment as reasonable justification. It is not. Your student council is not only attempting to force a stance on its councillors, and thus unduly sway the outcome of the referendum — your student council is misleading you.
WPIRG is run differently from many other organizations that collect refundable fees. MathSoc collects refundable fees, but ALL of the money goes straight back to the math students. WPIRG is not run by students, and at least 65% of fees collected are paid out in salaries. Collect the facts. Study the platforms. Do NOT listen to the FEDS stance, because they blatantly shrugged off their responsibility to represent the students' concerns. This motion involves back-bench political maneuvering to protect WPIRG. If the council as a whole truly believed "No" was the correct stance to take, then councillors from three different faculties would not have voted against the motion.
Let this referendum light a fire under the proverbial seats of the FEDS council. Let your voice be heard. Force council to address the issues of refundable fees. Force WPIRG to act responsibly. Spread the word of democracy, and protect your rights as a citizen to not have an interest group with very narrow-minded views dip its fingers into YOUR pocket. Your student council no longer represents your beliefs. I can no longer represent your beliefs. But YOU can. Vote "YES" on the WPRIG referendum, and send a loud and important message to council.