Last week Elliott Averett ’15 wrote an op-ed advocating a “no” vote on the MPIRG contract. For those who haven’t read it, I highly recommend checking it out. This week I wanted to add my voice as a student who, unlike Elliott, rarely participates in anything on campus.
I’m writing this Op-Ed for those who don’t consider themselves active members in our political process at Mac. Up until I got involved in advocating against the MPIRG contract, I would put myself in the same category. As a matter of fact, up until my desire to end the opt-out system, I had never actively participated in any political campaign, on campus or off.
So why was this such a big deal for me that I decided to write an Op-Ed about it? I think the answer is obvious: there is no policy currently in place at our school that so directly takes advantage of the uninvolved and the uninformed—two groups in which I frequently count myself amongst the ranks.
MPIRG doesn’t just benefit from students not paying attention to their opt-out system, they thrive on it. Let me illustrate with a personal anecdote. The fact that 12 dollars of my student activity fee was being diverted to MPIRG was not brought to my attention until last April. Before then, I had been an unwitting, not-so-proud donor to the organization as a result of the current contract. I might be going out on a limb here but I believe that a significant percentage of Mac students are in a similar boat—completely unaware that their money has directly gone to a political org.
In practical terms, this means that the segment of campus least likely to give to a political organization is the segment that is most likely to supply the majority of the Macalester MPIRG chapter’s cash flow.
I have tried time and time again to find a compelling reason on how this could possibly be justified but I come up short. MPIRG claims that the current system is democratic because they are the only org that people can choose to not fund. But of course in order for people to not fund MPIRG, they need to be aware of the fact they can opt-out. No other political organization that I am aware of simply assumes people want to give them money unless they explicitly say otherwise.
I also frequently hear MPIRG claim that they are an organization that fights for students’ interests and therefore are unique in deserving their funding. I have the same objection here. It is hard to make the case that MPIRG is doing work for students if most students are completely unaware they are funding the org. I have to ask anyone reading this right now who was unaware of the MPIRG contract until recently—are you aware of what MPIRG does on campus and off? Have you advised them on what initiatives are important to you? Do you know what they spend your money on?
To be clear, I am not trying to suggest that MPIRG itself is a bad organization. As a left-leaning moderate I often agree with MPIRG’s initiatives. My only point is that the current relationship Macalester has with MPIRG has not been a positive one and the contract as it stands is designed to take advantage of students more inclined toward political apathy.
Voting no on the MPIRG contract November 17th is one of the best ways someone who normally doesn’t get involved in campus affairs can stand up and have their voice heard. I know for myself, the contract is about more than just the money; it is about sending a signal to both Macalester and MPIRG. Just because someone chooses to not be involved in campus affairs does not mean they should be taken advantage of by political organizations. Our peers at Carleton ended their own contract with MPIRG in 2009 by a landslide margin largely because those who were not engaged on campus decided to vote against it.
So for all you people out there who have ignored campus politics, now is your chance to act. It’s not about being for or against MPIRG. It’s about being for a fair budgeting process for all student orgs. Please, vote for fairness at Mac by voting no on the MPIRG contract November 17th.