Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

MassPIRG features five campaigns at spring kickoff event

Keynote speaker Benjamin Weil discusses renewable energy campus
Collegian File Photo

Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG) held a “Spring Kickoff” event on Feb. 12 in the Campus Center Auditorium.

The five campaigns operated by MassPIRG focus on prominent issues within the campus community and on the national scale, including “100 percent Renewable Energy,” “Save the Bees,” “Student Debt,” “Hunger and Homelessness” and “Democracy for the People.”

Benjamin Weil, a UMass professor of building and construction technology, discussed his involvement in MassPIRG’s campaign supporting a 100 percent renewable energy campus.

“If UMass leads the way — if we are a campus that actually goes to true 100 percent renewable — we develop the technology,” Weil said. “We train the professionals who are going to do it. We become a living laboratory so that all the students that follow you…are going to learn how to manage these technologies and improve these technologies.”

Weil discussed his support for renewable energy to deter global warming, and his belief that the world has come to a point in which it has the capabilities and technology to not have to rely on the burning of fossil fuels.

“In 2016, 61.5 percent of all new power capacity in the U.S. was renewables,” Weil explained. “That’s more than coal, more than natural gas, more than anything. The solar photo-voltaic contact price in some places is now as low as three cents-per-kilowatt hour. That is the lowest price for power, so the technology is here.”

Each campaign was introduced by an individual campaign coordinator to offer potential volunteers a view into the goals of each.

“100 Percent Renewable Energy” campaign coordinator Kaitlyn Mitchell explained that her campaign was pushing the University to convert to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 through campus wide effort and support for the cause. In March, the campaign is planning a teach-in where they try to get as many professors as they can to relate one of their lesson plans to climate change advocacy and renewable energy. This is an effort to widen the scope of the climate change debate to the extent that it can impact any subject matter, not just sustainability or environmental studies.

The campaign coordinator for “Democracy of the People,” Yuval Abraham, explained that their mission was to “change the culture on voting and elections” to “get people excited and more engaged politically.” Beginning this week, the group plans to lead a letter-writing campaign to editors of various newspapers to express their concerns regarding the importance of public engagement.

Jonathan Lee, the campaign coordinator for “Student Debt,” emphasized the importance of educating students on what they sign up for when accepting federal and/or student loans. The campaign endeavors to provide more safeguards for students against malicious intent from private loan services. This semester, Lee explained, they are pushing for the support of the Student Bill of Rights in the Senate through lobbying and calling their senators.

Catalina Arredondo, campaign coordinator for “Hunger and Homelessness,” said, “Our mission statement is that all students have the capability to work together to help educate the public, advocate and help with long term policy changes for people who are food insecure and homeless.”

On campus, Arredondo’s campaign has worked closely with Supply Closet by organizing fundraisers throughout the school year. Off campus, they are working with Craig’s Place and the Amherst Survival Center.

Lindsay Mitnik, the campus coordinator for MassPIRG, spoke about the full-time job opportunities for those interested in continuing their involvement in any of the campaigns spoken about or the group itself through becoming a campus organizer.

“My whole job is to work on college campus to train and empower and mobilize students to make a difference on their own campus,” she said.

Bonnie Chen can be reached at [email protected].

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