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Time to Defund Campus PIRGs
Americans choose to support watchdog organizations covering every imaginable issue from every conceivable viewpoint. Various state/local/provincial PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups), however, are outside of even those broad boundaries because much of their funding is not by choice. Students at various universities are required to support campus-based PIRGs irrespective of whether or not they support the groups' agenda.

An article in The Desert Lamp, an independent student publication at the University of Arizona, noted that "PIRG uses the money it gets from students - usually from mandatory fees muscled into place through nefarious means - to pay the salaries of professional, off-campus staff who lobby for more money for more professional staff."

Campus PIRGs may appeal most to students who major in irony. The Desert Lamp article notes that the supposedly progressive organization "settled a $2.15 million class-action suit for underpaying its workers." Arizona PIRG, which describes itself as "Standing Up To Powerful Interests," apparently neglected to mention that they do so by bullying the powerless.

It's not only in Arizona that PIRGs operate a de facto shakedown of students. The Varsity, a student newspaper at the University of Toronto, in an article titled "Just say NO-PIRG!" noted that the Graduate Student Union "cited OPIRG's failure to adhere to their contractual obligation to properly advertise the 'opt-out' window, during which students can reclaim the portion of their student fees taken by OPIRG."

The Canadian article also noted that while "some of the issues OPIRG raises are valid...the solutions and methods they suggest are simply too radical...." For example, OPIRG "was also one of the organizations behind the hateful anti-Israel week in March - a campaign which creates a toxic atmosphere on campus and has been condemned across party lines in the Ontario Legislature. It is also involved in bringing in speakers like Ward Churchill who referred to the victims of 9/11 as 'little Eichmanns' and preaches 'direct' read violent action and supports working groups like the Communist Research Group."

If students or anyone else chooses to support a local PIRG or US PIRG, they are free to do so. Mandatory student dues to campus PIRGs, however, are unacceptable irrespective of any clawback mechanism that may allow students to reclaim their funds. It's time to stop requiring students to finance PIRGs.

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