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To the Editors of The Crimson:
I was disturbed to read in a recent Crimson about the intent of founders for a Harvard chapter of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) to "seek undergraduate funding." According to the article, they hope that CHUL will put a $3 surcharge on student term bills to bankroll them, if they can get a majority of students to agree to the scheme by signing their petition.
I see no justification for the funding of any sort of advocacy group by mandatory contributions from students. It makes no difference how many students agree with PIRG's positions on issues concerning the environment and the rights of consumers. The article says that in 1972, PIRG had the support of over half the students; but even if 95 per cent of them now supported it, it has no right to extort contributions from the remaining 5 per cent.
If it be argued that the University should subsidize the PIRG in the interests of encouraging the free exchange of ideas, then it would be wrong to stop at just one partisan group. What about the Harvard Republicans, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, the Spartacus Youth League? The University should on this principle add $100 to students' term bills and distribute the proceeds to whoever has a cause to promote.
Any advocacy group that claims to represent the views of a significant number of students should be able to finance itself with contributions from its supporters alone.
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