Queen's University — Since 1873
19th March 2009

Agendas and accusations

Motions to eradicate OPIRG student fee, ASUS representative, fail

Kevin Wiener, ArtSci ’12 and First Year ASUS Representative to the AMS, says he disagrees with OPIRG’s role on campus. Wiener’s motion to eliminate the opt-outable OPIRG student activity fee failed at Monday’s AMS Annual General Meeting.
Kevin Wiener, ArtSci ’12 and First Year ASUS Representative to the AMS, says he disagrees with OPIRG’s role on campus. Wiener’s motion to eliminate the opt-outable OPIRG student activity fee failed at Monday’s AMS Annual General Meeting. (Matthew Rushworth)

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At Monday night’s AMS Annual General Meeting, Nick Day, ArtSci ’09, motioned for the removal of First Year ASUS Representative to the AMS Kevin Wiener.

“The motion was for Kevin Wiener to be removed from AMS Assembly and for the AMS to recommend that he wouldn’t be a representative to ASUS,” Day said. The motion was voted down with 81 voting in favour and 90 against. There were 23 abstentions.

Wiener was accused of trying to present a motion at AMS attempted to eliminate funding to staffed organizations receiving student fees, including Ontario Public Research Interest Group (OPIRG), in an effort to promote a Conservative agenda. Wiener denies he is working to advance political ideals.

Day said he asked for Wiener’s removal due to his participation in the Conservative Party.

“I’m not affiliated with OPIRG,” he said. “What I’m more concerned with is the way student government is run. Ideologies should be kept out of office.” Wiener proposed a motion at the AMS AGM stipulating that no for-profit organization should be eligible to receive student activity fees. Also, when a written statement about the fee is submitted to the AMS, it must explain how much is spent on salaries, honoraria, and management and consultant fees annually. The motion was voted down.

Wiener has been accused of attending a workshop hosted by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association (OPCCA) aimed at teaching students how to push forward a Conservative agenda on their own campuses. The OPCCA is not affiliated with the Conservative Party of Canada.

A transcript of the workshop and corresponding audio file posted to Wikileaks on Sunday quoted Wiener as stating that through amending student funding rules, funding to OPIRG could end.

“So, um, how about instead of necessarily fighting [OPIRG] we just get our own non-profit corporation that receives student fees, and just have our own student funding to fight them. Or the alternative, if you can get student government which in some places you can, because OPIRG is a non- profit and not a club or a charity, just amending the student funding rules, like, ‘in order to receive funding you must be a club or a charity,’ and then, bam, they’re just not eligible to receive fees,” Wiener said in the recording.

He admitted to participating in a conversation about student fees but denies attending the conference in order to learn about how to forward a Conservative agenda in student government.

Wiener said he was attending a debating tournament at Wilfred Laurier.

“I’d found out there was a Conservative training conference happening at the same time. On my lunch break, I went to meet up with some friends.

“The information gone out is skewed. I was only there about 10 minutes.”

Wiener said he entered the conference during a session that discussed public interest research groups on campus.

“The person leading the session said that left-wing or right-wing groups should not be receiving student funds,” he said. “I expressed an opinion that’s at those universities where student governments are able to control student fees.”

Wiener said he thinks groups with political purposes should not receive student fees.

“My opinion—and I stand by this—is the primary purpose of student fees is to provide for clubs and collect for charities that provide a great deal of good to the community. OPIRG is neither a club nor a charity. Their sole purpose is to engage in left-wing activism.”

Wiener said his motion was not inspired by his conversation or presence at the conference, but added that he is concerned about OPIRG’s tactics.

“I had no idea I was going to be put on trial for being a Conservative,” he said. “One person forwarded the e-mail to the [engineer] mail list of the University. This is a violation of the IT Services Code of Conduct. An e-mail went out to every engineer at Queen’s saying untrue things about me. It was interesting [the motion] was put forward while there was largely people who had been mobilized by OPIRG.”

The motion put forward at the AMS AGM by Wiener was a revised version of a motion drafted earlier.

Vice-President (University Affairs) Stephanie St. Clair, ArtSci ’08, said she spoke to Wiener after he submitted the original motion to the AMS. The draft motion proposed that organizations which gave 25 per cent or more of their operating budget to salaries should not receive funding from student fees. This included exemptions for AMS services, faculty societies and large charities.

If passed, this motion would have affected OPIRG, among other student groups.

“We were concerned about the motion. Some of our staff kind of advised him that it would be very unlikely, practically impossible, to put that through.”

OPIRG co-ordinator Sean Haberle said he received an e-mail on Friday informing him of the allegations.

“[I found out] in an e-mail from someone informing me there was some sort of Tory thing, that there was a Tory conspiracy, to take out OPIRG and that specifically someone at Queen’s would affect OPIRG negatively,” he said. “OPIRG doesn’t necessarily know what’s going on in student politics all the time. It’s not our job to monitor student politics.”

Haberle, MA ’08, said students need to be made aware of the accusations against Wiener.

“This story needs to get out to the broader world. Another school in Halifax in Dalhousie is facing the exact same problem. Regardless of whether he dropped in, he stayed and contributed to the conversation.

“It’s extremely disturbing to see parties involving themselves in the affairs in non-profits in an underhanded way. Parties aren’t supposed to take over civil sphere.”

Correction

ASUS Student Senator Kevin Wiener put forward a motion at the AMS Annual General Meeting stipulating that no
for-profit organization should be eligible to receive student activity fees, and that when a written statement about the fee is submitted to the AMS, the organization must explain how much is spent on salaries, honoraria, and management and consultant fees annually.
 
Incorrect information appeared in the Mar. 19 edition of the Journal.
 
The Journal regrets the error.

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