Viewpoint: UM wrong to quash student democracy
No one expects the University of Montana to take accountability for its (in)actions, least of all the tuition-paying students. That said, the latest dismissal of students' right to organize in their interest by UM spin doctor Dave Kuntz and Can-Kicking Champion Paul Lasiter is a brazen insult to the continued support that Missoula college students have shown for MontPIRG's optional student fee.
For more than a decade, the MontPIRG fee has received overwhelming support in ASUM elections, and that funding has empowered MontPIRG to uphold the rights of students to vote in the communities they're putting down roots in, protect the environment that brings the best and brightest of international students to earn a degree in Missoula, and fight for the rights of tenants in a state strangled by a housing crisis.
Young people building a life and a vision for their futures in our city have every right to focus their collective power through democratic participation, which is why MontPIRG exists and has thrived for more than 30 years at UM. Apparently none of that matters to Dave Kuntz and Paul Lasiter.
We all know these canned and cowardly opinions are bought and paid for in the fear of rocking the boat during the Gianforte administration. As a former Board officer for MontPIRG, I'm proud of the recent and current Board leadership for standing up to the administration's lies about why they're abusing process to defund student organizing. Our constitutional rights to associate and petition our government for redress of grievances don't end at the amputated edge of a bureaucrat's comfort level.
We live in a time where the state government has recklessly abused its power and practiced gross negligence in the face of urgent and pressing needs on housing, healthcare, and conservation. The regrettable fact is that the UM admin scapegoats quoted in the recent Daily Montanan article are merely the tactically positioned pawns of a university president who has more affinity for posed photoshoots than empowering students.
Seth Bodnar has gushed polemic of how he's proud of student advocacy at our university, but his orders behind closed doors show the calculated cowardice of a true politician. We see your hypocrisy all across the mismanagement of the University of Montana, and your polished failures are no justification for curtailing effective student participation in our democracy.
And for the record, we don't regularly see Dave Kuntz at ASUM, either. Not that there's any value in that egocentric circle jerk, but he made the point first.