MPIRG checkoff is an unfair advantage

I wish to point out that none of the Thursday letters defending the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group’s funding mechanism address the basic issue of the Daily’s Tuesday editorial. The letters discuss the benefits of MPIRG, nitpick about the amount of the checkoff and express outrage about an attack on a fellow student organization, but they fail to address the central charge: The checkoff gives MPIRG an unfair advantage over other political groups.
With the checkoff, the University picks up the tab for MPIRG’s fund-raising needs. Collecting the fee costs money, and MPIRG’s costs of collection are covered by taxpayers and students, neither of whom have a choice in the matter. Other student groups, which might hold views opposing MPIRG’s, are forced to do the fund raising themselves, which puts them at a disadvantage.
Clearly this favors the views MPIRG holds. It is certainly true that other student groups receive mandatory fees, but there is a difference: Groups like Coffman Union or Boynton Health Service are not political advocacy groups. Even the Daily, which typically takes leftist viewpoints, regularly prints opposing viewpoints to add balance to their opinions page. MPIRG does not attempt to provide a balanced forum for debate.
For example, MPIRG is holding a forum on the “Social Costs of Sprawl” this Saturday. What they mean by “sprawl” is suburbs. The solution of the anti-sprawl activists is to crowd us all back into the city and take away our cars. I support sprawl for the same reason that so many families choose to move to the suburbs in the first place — more open space, the greater freedom cars provide, less air pollution, greater peace and quiet, better schools, lower taxes, etc. However, I doubt MPIRG will have any speakers presenting this view. MPIRG might not be partisan, but they certainly are not neutral or even-handed.
I personally disagree with most of the positions MPIRG takes, and I object to a tax-funded University supporting this organization. Whether these positions are “mainstream” is irrelevant. It is inappropriate for a government institution to take sides in political issues, and that is, in essence, what the University is doing in this situation. MPIRG should get their funding the same way as the vast majority of student groups: by their own fund-raising efforts. This is not “vicious slander.” It simply puts them on the same footing as the rest of us.
Tim Lee,webmaster,Campus Libertarians