Originally published in The Mac Weekly.
This is not the time for a debate on whether MPIRG should receive
special funding from Macalester. We need that debate, but it was
supposed to happen through a referendum.
Every three years, Macalester holds a referendum to let the student
body decide if MCSG should continue its contract with MPIRG. Supposedly
that happened through the referendum passed two weeks ago.
Somebody cheated Macalester out of that discussion by holding an
illegitimate referendum. Here are four ways the referendum failed to
pass the smell test:
1) Only MPIRG, and presumably members of MCSG, were notified of the
premature placement of the referendum on the ballot. This effectively
meant supporters of the referendum could organize while opposition could
not. I found out about the referendum through Mac Confessions a couple
of days before the vote. Seriously? No MCSG email, no inclusion in the
Daily Piper, no posters, nothing?
2) Separate ballots for MCSG elections and MPIRG. On the email for
the official ballot were three links. First, the ballot for MCSG
Executive positions. Second, candidate profiles. Last, the MPIRG
referendum. That meant that you had to click the third link, separated
from the first one by a link that contained no ballot, in order to find
the referendum nobody was told about. Unsurprisingly, turnout dropped by
over 50% between the MCSG presidential race and the MPIRG referendum.
3) The ballot editorialized. For those who bothered to click the
third link on the email, they were treated to several reasons within the
ballot language why you should like MPIRG. “MPIRG has worked to protect
the environment, fight domestic violence, educate voters and create
more affordable housing,” it said. Opponents of the referendum were not
even asked to place opposition language.
Bonus problem: While MCSG thought it was a good idea to separate
candidate profiles from the ballot for MCSG candidates, apparently they
assumed MPIRG’s advocacy should actually be ON the ballot.
I will not blame MPIRG for this. They didn’t ask for an election
rigged in their favor. I sympathize with their desire to expand
electoral participation, even when I disagree with the details.
But I will blame anybody who uses the “referendum” we had as an
excuse to let the contract with Macalester continue. That includes
MPIRG, whose leaders know that the referendum did not meet their own
standards and ideals. That includes MCSG, who botched this whole affair.
Somebody screwed up and called an illegitimate referendum. The
mistake is unacceptable but it’s in the past. Now it’s time to fix the
problem. Not with a special commission or an MCSG committee that cannot
fix the problem for three years. With a re-vote.
Don’t let us down again, MCSG.