Opinion

Responding to the MPIRG referendum results

The results for the MPIRG referendum came out today. Thank goodness this clusterf*ck is over. Nobody is blameless why this went so bad—MPIRG, MCSG, the “opposition,” the Electoral Procedures Committee and the student body all had parts in this.

Let’s start with MPIRG. Back in April, when they had their first referendum, fewer than 253 people voted. In the previous referendum (2011), 555 people voted yes. I don’t know how that compares to the number of votes cast for MCSG in 2011, because that section of their website is blank, but it’s probably better than 28.5% of votes cast for MCSG offices. What did MPIRG do in the three years that made everybody apathetic towards them? Do you know? Last year they organized letter writing campaigns. They led a Mac contingent to protest the Alberta Clipper Pipeline (think Keystone XL, but Minnesotan) at the state capital. They’re out there protesting while we sit and study. From what I’ve heard, they were just badly run for much of the last three years.

And then there’s MCSG. This semester, I’ve received three emails about this from them – an election announcement, a voting email, and a results email. Hell, that’s all I’ve interacted with MCSG this year. If you search for it, the MCSG president rants a bit in the comments to a Mac Weekly op-ed, but that’s it. While I appreciate the lack of opinions, I would have appreciated a little more outreach from an officially unbiased body to inform us about the election; A table at the entrance to the campus center with facts. Maybe an email with the same facts. The only reason I felt like I knew anything about what was going on is because I talked to people voting yes, people voting no, members of MPIRG, and dug through MCSG’s webpage. This whole campaign, I heard from the opposition about what MPIRG could or could not do. I heard the opposite from MPIRG. Would it have been too much to have some official clarification? Or even putting the subject of the vote – a majority lets MPIRG and MCSG negotiate a new contract—somewhere other than the end of their referendum announcement?

And to the opposition – first, congratulations to Elliott for running a brilliant campaign. It reminds me of the 2012 Iowa caucus where Rick Santorum visited most of the state and talked to everybody. The strategy worked very well for both of them. And I was going to pull a quote from your Facebook group now, but you’ve already taken that and your blog down. No matter. You and your campaign were barking up the wrong tree. You emailed many people and wrote that “[you] feel that the MPIRG contract is deeply unfair to students at Mac. It takes advantage of students who don’t want to participate in politics by exploiting their unfamiliarity with the system”. Guess what – so is that fact that my money goes to orgs I’m not particularly fond of. Yes MPIRG got more, but none of the other orgs were helping to pay somebody’s salary (as far as I know). A yes vote lets MPIRG and MCSG renegotiate the contract. Most other MPIRG chapters don’t have an opt out. No other Mac orgs have an opt out. If you all agree with what MPIRG does but not their contract, then you should have campaigned after a yes vote. You should have gone to your student reps. Over 700 people voted no this time. If you got that many people to talk to their reps about the contract, there’s a very large chance they would have listened to you. And if they didn’t, I expect you would have voted them out of office at the next election.

And to the Electoral Procedures Committee (EPC): Do you remember all the MPIRG members saying they dispute the factual accuracy of the “opposition’s” statements? That’s on you. You who made rules that applied to MPIRG when those same rules handed a huge advantage to the opposition. While MPIRG was posting that they disputed the “opposition’s” statements, the “opposition” got to campaign. Except they weren’t. There was no opposition in this referendum, officially speaking. MPIRG got shafted here. They had to wait until the campaign period started – a good five days after the vote no group got started – and they had to stop at midnight Monday morning. Meanwhile, the “opposition” got to campaign, ignore the election rules, and be obnoxious. Emails at midnight when I’m doing homework Monday evening and during class Monday morning. Leave me alone. Please. But no matter – my biggest complaint is the indirect censorship they caused. I was asked by friends in MPIRG to say nothing about the referendum until the campaigning period had begun. I’m not a member of MPIRG. I’ve never been to a meeting, had any of their pizza, been on their email list. I’m just a student who is friends with members. You probably are too. Why should I be silent? Because they don’t know if somebody would try to paint me as part of MPIRG or related enough to annul the referendum. By the way, EPC, I may have just been unobservant, but I didn’t see any computers set up in the campus center in a convenient location to encourage voting during the voting period. And I did go to Cafe Mac multiple times during the voting period. It’s a finicky rule like that which annulled the April referendum, right? Or is it just that only some of the election rules applied to this referendum?

And lastly you, students of Macalester. You go to a very liberal, opinionated college. When President Obama was running for reelection, you turned out in droves. You volunteered. You canvassed neighborhoods, you were involved. You were invested. You wanted to achieve something. MPIRG was your best way to continue that. The Macalester chapter was involved in environmental legislation, they campaigned against Minnesota Amendment 1, a proposed constitutional amendment which would have banned gay marriage here. MPIRG was a way to make yourself heard. None of the other orgs came with a connection to students at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis, Duluth, and Morris campuses. Or connections with Hamline, Augsburg, and St. Kate’s. Needless to say, no other orgs came with connections to all six. United we stand. Divided we fall. As part of MPIRG we weren’t just that small campus in Saint Paul. We were the college students of Minnesota. We are that no longer, and our voice is that much quieter without the support of over 54,000 other students in Minnesota. People have told me, “Educate yourself and vote” for years. You all should do that too. MCSG has a website with the previous MPIRG contract. Talk to both sides. Send emails to MCSG asking for factual clarification. As a student body, we listened too much to the claims of the two sides, and this is the result. This whole campaign seemed, on both sides, to repeat the same things over and over. Was nobody interested in finding out more? Everybody here on campus could have done more. Instead we silenced ourselves.

And that’s a shame.

November 23, 2014

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