Editorial: Pushing PIRG

As the common saying goes, “you win some, you lose some.”

But if you’re Arizona Public Interest Research Group, the saying is slightly different. It goes more like, “you lose a big one, and then you write it off as a technicality.” For the past few weeks leading up to the student government elections, PIRG has literally plastered ASU with flyers, canvassed the area and told anyone willing to listen about their referendum to impose a $1.50 student fee that would go toward supporting its operations.

The effort to stop the fee? Barely noticeable compared to the bright blue “Vote YES” signs we saw everywhere.

Still, when it came time to head to the polls, (or rather asu.edu/votenow), students overwhelmingly voted down the PIRG referendum at the three campuses where the issue was on the ballot. On the Tempe, Polytechnic and Downtown campuses, 4,172 students voted against the fee and 3,304 voted for it. The closest vote was on the Downtown campus, but the overall margin was 868 votes— not too shabby.

PIRG has continually said it wanted to use this election to give students a chance to show widespread support for the organization on campus. Since the numbers clearly show students aren’t willing to pay for PIRG, we expected the organization to accept it and work on being funded in the same way as other student clubs.

But even though PIRG constantly points to its student advocacy work, instead of backing down and graciously accepting the will of the student body, the group has decided to challenge the vote, complaining that students had to click on a link to read the wording of the referendum and that students based on two campuses were able to vote twice (among other things).

These arguments would hold more weight if PIRG was the only ballot measure that required voters to click a link to read the platform (it wasn’t) and if PIRG hadn’t already been aware that each campus government was considered sovereign (it was, according to Scott Tippett, elections director for the Tempe campus).

Students didn’t vote blindly on the PIRG issue: when it becomes difficult to walk to class without getting verbally accosted by PIRG reps, you have to know that the issue is out there.

In fact, election results for Tempe show that zero students chose to abstain from voting on the PIRG issue. (To put that in perspective, consider that more people chose to abstain rather than vote for Barrett, the Honors College and W. P. Carey School of Business senators.)

Let it be known that The State Press doesn’t have a vendetta against PIRG — the work that it does is in many cases noble, and if students are willing to be involved, then the group has a right to be a club on campus. But just like other clubs, PIRG should not expect students to pay a separate fee to fund its work. In fact, a lot of the student advocacy work PIRG touts should really be done by student governments — we are already forced to fund those anyway. What really concerns us is that PIRG is ignoring the will of the students. If the group would rather waste time whining about election results and crying foul instead of using its volunteer power to actually advocate for student issues, then PIRG is just reaffirming the opinion of the majority that voted its fee down.

The numbers were clear. It’s time that PIRG moves on and puts more volunteer power into pushing the issues it supposedly promotes. PIRG has to show some real results and let students decide on an individual basis whether or not to support the group. The rules shouldn’t be bent for one club, even if common sayings are.

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