The Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) – Carleton is disappointed in the agreement reached between the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Carleton and the Carleton University Students Association (CUSA). We consider this to be an unqualified victory for CUSA. It is now apparent that CUSA executives can easily get away with threatening to destroy progressive spaces on campus and extort money from them without any organized resistance.
The deal that OPIRG signed with CUSA is a defeat for all radical, militant, progressive Carleton students and community members. Having to pay 3,600$ more every year for the rent of the space in exchange for a 7 month lease is a terrible deal. Instead of funding research and working groups, this money will now go to pay for an outrageous salary increase that CUSA executives have set for themselves.
The conduct of OPIRG board and staff creates a dangerous precedent where instead of relying on an open, democratic decision making process that involves as many members as possible, the course of action that was taken was negotiations behind closed doors with the very people that want OPIRG gone from Carleton.
To add to that, the board ignored the calls of the membership to vote on a militant response to the crisis at an open meeting, instead deciding that it knows better and that a petition coupled with secret negotiations is the best way forward.
Instead of fostering a culture of grassroots, active, militant resistance to reactionary attacks this creates a culture of top-down, secretive deals behind closed doors and discourages militant students from taking action to defend progressive spaces and organizations.
Let us be perfectly clear: the RSM Carleton maintains that this approach is ineffective, since it does not rely on students and community members as a base of support and makes OPIRG even more vulnerable to future attacks. As these negotiations showed, when OPRIG and CUSA sit down at the negotiating table, CUSA has the power. The only thing that can force CUSA’s hand in these situations is a mobilization of OPIRG’s membership around direct action to defend the space. Without this type of mobilization, CUSA is able to dictate the terms of the agreement. Thus, instead of engaging its membership, the OPIRG board opted to sign a shorter-term lease with worse terms.
We would like to encourage the OPIRG Carleton board to be open to criticism from its members, and respond to said criticism in an honest, constructive fashion. Criticism leveled by the RSM and other OPIRG members is in no way an attempt to attack OPIRG, but rather is an attempt to strengthen OPIRG as an organization through the struggle of ideas.
We call on all radical, militant and progressive students to closely follow the developments concerning OPIRG that will come in the next 7 months and to be prepared to take action in case of another reactionary attack on OPIRG. We fully expect that CUSA will try and evict OPIRG again when the newly signed lease is up; we will need to defend OPIRG when such a time comes.
It is only through a mobilization of OPIRG’s membership and direct action that we can truly realize the power that we possess, a power greater than any student union bureaucrats can levy: strength in numbers and the conviction to build a better world.
We can save OPIRG.