Progressive college defunds liberal lobbying group for first time in history

59.2 percent of students said they didn’t want their student fees going towards the group.

This is the first time Macalester College has voted against funding the group, and only the second time the group has been denied funding by a Minnesota college.

Students at Macalester College in Minnesota voted to end their contract with MPIRG, a progressive lobbying group.

Students at Macalester College voted Tuesday to end the school’s contract with a progressive lobbying group that received direct funding through student fees.

Macalester, named one of the most liberal colleges in America back in 2011, voted to end automatic funding for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), which advocates for issues such as environmental protection, same-sex marriage, and minimum wage increases, according to Pioneer Press.

As previously reported by Campus Reform, six other Minnesota colleges fund the progressive group. However, 59.2 percent of students at Macalester voted to stop funding the group its allocated $6 per semester, per student; 63 percent of students voted.

“Our opponents never took us seriously until the end,” Danny Surman, who helped lead the student referendum to end funding, told Campus Reform in an email. “Last semester we led a large number of students to a student government meeting when our voices were excluded from the last contract negotiation between student government and MPIRG. In the fall, when we started organizing, MPIRG organizers thought they had the edge. We proved them wrong.”

Surman, who paired with the College Republicans and the Young Americans for Liberty chapters on campus in their campaign efforts, said they could never have won over voters by themselves. He attributes their success to the bi-partisan support in ending the group’s contract.

“[O]ur two lead organizers were a Democrat who is so partisan he couldn't even vote for a friend when he ran for office and a left-leaning independent,” Surman told Campus Reform. “Other students of all parties and ideologies joined in.”

Students previously had the option to opt out of funding the group, however many attest the emails notifying them of this option were easy to miss, and often went unnoticed. According to the Pioneer Press, roughly ten percent of Macalester’s students opt out of funding MPIRG annually, in which the money would then go towards the student government.

“Most people know MPIRG as that student group who tables outside the Campus Center about a cause of the week,” Surman told Campus Reform. “They don't realize the implications of their money going to an organization that has the power to change policy, not just send a few postcards to legislators.”

Macalester hosts a campus-wide vote in regards to MPIRG’s funding every three years. According to Surman, 2015 will be the first year Macalester students voted against funding the group, and as far as he knows, it will only be the second time it was ever voted down on a Minnesota campus. The first was Carleton College in 2009 and 2011.

“[T]he conflict was always about the fundamental idea that students had been hoodwinked into giving money to a lobbying organization that always falls on the liberal side of the issues...No organization should be able to take advantage of students like MPIRG did for so many years,” Surmon told Campus Reform.

According to the Pioneer Press, MPRIG was incorporated in 1971 and currently holds chapters at Augsburg College, Hamline University, St. Catherine University, and the University Minnesota's Twin Cities, Duluth and Morris campuses.

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