OPIRG and SJC head to referendum for February elections

Referendum questions:

1. “Do you support the removal of the $1.50 per credit fee for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) effective May 1, 2018?”

2. “Do you support a $3.97 increase to the Student Justice Centre fee (0.91 to $4.88) starting Spring 2018 as outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding?”

OPIRG:

By: Elizabeth Martin

For the second time in as many years the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, or OPIRG Brock, is going to referendum in order to continue its funding. OPIRG currently receives $1.50 per student credit. The referendum will give students the opportunity to decide whether or not OPIRG Brock should continue receiving this funding.
Prior to voting, students need to be well informed about what OPIRG is and its role at Brock:
OPIRG is a social and environmental justice organization, working through consensus-based decision-making models that involve a volunteer board of Brock students and community members (graduate students and community members involved can opt-in through paying the $7.50 membership fee). Rooted in anti-oppression, OPIRG Brock operates through engaging with educational and direct action groups to support social justice workers/work on and off campus.
In other terms, OPIRG Brock provides support for a lot of what goes on at Brock regarding social justice on and off campus. Whether it is financial, networking, physical space, etc., OPIRG Brock offers a whole array of support to action groups, the core of what OPIRG is all about. These action groups are made up of volunteers who are looking to address a specific issue, whether it is social or environmental. Some of the 2017-18 action groups include:

  • Disability and Neurodiversity Collective
  • Brock SCM
  • Brock University $15 and Fairness
  • The Cycle Circle
  • The St. Catharines Poetry Slam
  • Food Not Bombs St. Catharines
  • Niagara Freelancers Union

Additionally, it is also important to note that the funding/support OPIRG offers these action groups is decided by the board as consensus-based voting, unlike a hierarchical system that has a president/leader. The board itself, which just expanded from seven to nine members, is predominantly made up of volunteers, and added two permanent staff members this year: Kerry Duncan the Volunteer and Training Coordinator and Manchari Paranthahan, the Communications and Networking Coordinator. These two full-time staffers, added this year, were done so to help further the impact of OPIRG Brock across campus and into the community as well as making OPIRG Brock, and its action groups, more visible on campus.
In 2015, five action groups broke ties with OPIRG, stating the organization was lacking structure and that these action groups no longer wanted to be associated with OPIRG Brock. Since this issue, which these five action groups were promised a lot of support from OPIRG, the organization has done a revamping of its board of directors and staffing in hopes to better reconnect with action groups and better its role on and off campus.
In an identical statement posted in 2015 by all five action groups, they said, “we would be open to rebuilding a partnership with OPIRG-Brock in the future if it takes on new leadership that we feel better reflects the needs of our community.” However, the only action group from the five that has rejoined a partnership with OPIRG is Food Not Bombs – St. Catharines.
The other four, which remain unassociated with OPIRG, at least for this academic school year, are: DIG Brock Community Garden, Brock Fair Trade, Cinema Politica Brock and Brock Eco Club.
It’s to be noted, that the 2015 OPIRG board does not represent the current OPIRG team, however, a reminder that the organization has had a troubled past, as it has restructured its staff since 2015.
OPIRG currently operates off-campus with no set location.
During last year’s OPIRG referendum,, 76.3 per cent voted to defund the organization, however the number of people who voted only represented 11.05 (2,822 votes) per cent of the student body


SJC:

By: Serena Hosmar

Student Justice Center will be going to referendum with students voting on the above question.
In this issue, there is a comprehensive guide to each voting matter for this election and referendum voting period. In this article, you can read everything you need to know about the Student Justice Center Referendum.
The Student Justice Center (SJC) is a service at Brock dedicated to representing the interests of marginalized students at Brock University. Their goal as an organization is to protect vulnerable students and to, through active engagement with the community, educate the community on social justice and create positive change to ensure equality of opportunity and experience for every student at Brock.
They carry out these goals through a variety of methods, including workshops, campaigns, discussion groups, panel discussions, peer-to-peer support, research, training and more. They provide services that include the Student Justice Educative and Advocacy Services, the Student Ombuds Office, Student Refugee Program and Sexual Violence Support.
Ombuds, a neutral intermediating third party service who advocate for fair policies, procedures and decision making, especially regarding academic misconduct and grade appeals, is also part of the Student Justice Center.
The referendum included in the voting this year is to increase the fee included in tuition costs that is for the SJC. The fee currently sits at $0.91. Students will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” to the referendum question.
“Moving from 0.91 cents to $4.88 per credit is significant and that’s because this year’s referendum is an entirely different service model. The extra $3.97 would go towards supporting four core areas of service including a fully staffed and supported Student Justice Centre, doubled Ombuds support, on-campus Sexual Violence support and Student Refugee mentorship,” said Zanab Jafry, the SJC supervisor. “The increased fee would help us move from 100 to 360 hours of student service per week and would allow us to move from an office of five staff to an office of 11.”
Should the referendum pass, the SJC hopes to create new student full-time positions. The 11 proposed positions are: Anti-Racism Advocate, Indigeneity Advocate, Wellness & Accessibility Advocate, Sexuality and Gender Diversity Advocate, Refugee & Resettlement Advocate, two Sexual Violence Support Advocates, Reception & Resource Assistant, SJC Manager, Sexual Violence Support Advocate Manager and Ombuds Case manager.
An SJC referendum, proposing a $1.11 increase from $0.89 for the SJC, was included in the February 2017 elections. It did not pass by a margin of approximately five per cent, with 52.34 per cent of voters voting “no”. Only 4,364 students voted on this referendum.
Students should routinely check their student email accounts for information and updates regarding voting matters. Voting will occur via student email, and it will begin on February 13 and remain open until 9:00 p.m. on February 15. This is your campus, your education, and your Brock experience, so don’t forget to vote. An important part of the Brock community is that every voice has the chance to be heard. In the October 2017 by-elections, a record 33.2 per cent of the student body participated in the vote. “It is important that all students make their voices heard in the upcoming elections by voting, as it directly impacts their academic years at Brock University,” said BUSU Chief Returning Officer Fiona Purkiss in a statement earlier this year.

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