Free, democratic, and critical

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The Regina Public Interest Group (RPIRG) board of directors and staff would like to respond to some of the points raised in Andrew Milleker’s recent op-ed article, “Public interest doesn’t mean social interest”. Some of the points he made need some clarification.

First, he said he had no idea what RPIRG does. This wasn’t surprising to us, as he also said he actively tries to avoid finding out about what is going on and doesn’t have time to “hear or care about the political and social issues” facing students on our campus. Apart from this, he may not have heard about us because RPIRG’s resources exist for students who do wish to be engaged in social issues, either because they can see the injustices in our political and economic systems, or because they may live through these injustices every day, by experiencing racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, or other forms of oppression and discrimination. For some, these are a daily reality, and RPIRG is an essential way to combat them on our campus and in our community.

By reading the article, students may also not get a true sense of what RPIRG does, so we also wanted to describe some of the ways we support students. First, we fund student projects, events, working groups, and research. We have two funding rounds per semester, and any student can submit an application to hold an event, bring in a speaker, have a rally, throw a gala, go to a conference, host a workshop, or any number of things that promote a social or environmental justice issues. We even have two staff members to walk you through the process. Once your funding is approved, they will help to make your idea successful. To see examples of what students have done in the past, visit our website at www.rpirg.org.

Second, we have a kick-ass alternative library of DVDs, books, and magazines on issues spanning from human rights, to democracy, to the environment. These are located in our lounge (Riddell Centre 222), which is open to anyone from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Third, the eight awesome students who make up our board of directors host events throughout the year, including our annual summer camp, Generating Momentum. and our spring conference, Apathy into Action, along with many other campaigns. Students can volunteer at these events, help plan or organize them, or can run for the board themselves in the spring.

Andrew also noted you have the ability to opt out of our organization. Unlike other related student fees automatically assessed when you pay tuition, we give students the chance to opt out, which makes RPIRG one of the most democratic organizations on campus. The reason Andrew may not have heard about our opt-out period is because we recently made it even more democratic. Instead of being only two weeks every semester, students can now opt out at any time during the semester until the last day of classes – just stop by our office and fill out the form.    

Next, Andrew listed a few events we sponsored in the past he accused of being partisan, which is not the case. Neither Yves Engler nor Gwynne Dyer were representing political parties in any way, and if he had attended either one of these events, he would have been able to partake in the important and critical discussions about Canadian foreign policy that took place, which spanned the entire political spectrum.

Finally, we would like to respectfully disagree with Andrew’s stance that political apathy is a good thing. RPIRG believes any real democracy needs engaged citizens, and that this engagement does not start and end with voting, but requires critical thought, education about issues, and action to achieve societal justice. We also believe students can make positive change and will continue to support them to do so.

Jenn Bergen
Executive Director, RPIRG

2 comments

  1. Nat 26 September, 2011 at 14:02

    Jenn Bergen.  Always a classy lady.  RPIRG works for me and also works for me.  I am happy that we have such a group on campus.
     
    P.S. Jenn Bergen for Lt-Gov.

  2. DK 26 September, 2011 at 16:11

    Yes, yes and YES. Also wanting to chime in with Nat that RPIRG definitely works for me and I'm so happy that it exists on our campus. Yay for RPIRG!

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