On Nov. 12, the McMaster Students Union Student Representative Assembly and Board of Directors convened in Gilmour Hall for a particularly lengthy meeting.
In addition to voting on the approval of a number of policy papers, the assembly engaged in a heated discussion about whether the Ontario Public Interest Research Group McMaster student fee should be sent to referendum.
OPIRG McMaster Board of Directors member Tanya Brkic delivered the presentation on the group. OPIRG is a not-for-profit student organization that advocates for environmental and social justice.
Irazuzta highlighted the $8.07 fee that students pay for the service, but did not provide a quantitative break down of how it is allocated.
She did, however, speak about the working groups that OPIRG funds, particularly the McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance, and the events that they hold.
After Irazuzta concluded her presentation, she received a flurry of questions from the Assembly.
It should be noted that while McMaster students have the capacity to opt out of paying the OPIRG fee, this option is not particularly advertised by OPIRG. The option is also not available online, as students have to visit the OPIRG office in order to opt-out of paying the fee.
When asked how the organization is advertising the opt-out option, a representative from OPIRG in attendance stated that it has advertised through The Silhouette’s website and in the McMaster University Student Centre.
Chukky Ibe, MSU President, stressed that OPIRG has yet to adopt the MSU’s recommendations from last year, which include concerns about OPIRG’s high level of administrative costs and the consensus that the opt-out process should be moved online.
When the discussion shifted back to the OPIRG discussion later in the meeting, Alex Wilson, SRA member (science), noted the ambiguity concerning what constitutes good advertising in the first place.
Deshpande reiterated the concern that a significant portion of the funding OPIRG collects from students goes towards administrative costs. Ibe critiqued the lack of undergraduate involvement in the organization.
To remedy the problem of insufficient advertising, an OPIRG representative suggested that the opt-out be moved online.
Another OPIRG representative suggested the formation of a working group between OPIRG and the MSU.
By the end of the meeting, most of the tension between the Assembly and OPIRG dissipated, as both the Assembly and OPIRG staff expressed interest in not sending the OPIRG fee to referendum.
Instead, Deshpande proposed that an Ad Hoc committee be established to review OPIRG and set long-term direction, which includes compliance with bylaw 5 — financial affairs.
The next SRA meeting will be held on Nov. 26 in Gilmour Hall. The motion to put the OPIRG fee to referendum, as per finance committee recommendations, will still be on the agenda.