Massachusetts Daily Collegian

MassPIRG announces five campaigns for the 2018-2019 year

The announcement was part of their fall kickoff meeting

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(Bonnie Chen/ Daily Collegian)

(Bonnie Chen/ Daily Collegian)

(Bonnie Chen/ Daily Collegian)

By Bonnie Chen, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group introduced the five campaigns they’ll be spearheading this academic year at their Fall Kickoff Meeting on Sept. 19, 2018. The campaigns focus on important issues that not only affect students at the University of Massachusetts, but also the greater community.

“New Voters Project,” “100% Renewable Energy,” “Hunger and Homelessness,” “Save the Bees” and “Affordable Textbooks” were the five campaigns unveiled.

Three of the campaigns this fall have continued on from last semester since they are still considered growing issues in the UMass community: “100% Renewable Energy,” “Hunger and Homelessness” and “Save the Bees.”

The Student Government Association passed a resolution in 2016 signing off on the “100% Renewable Energy” campaign with the goal of converting UMass to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

“Our main goal for this semester is to actually hold an event that is focused on sustainability and renewable energy on our campus,” campaign coordinator Kaitlyn Mitchell said. “We’re trying to get professionals who not only work at UMass but also around the Amherst area and Massachusetts in general to come and speak about how it’s possible on our campus.”

The renewable energy campaign has already collected over 100 faculty petitions and 4,000 student petitions, nearly reaching their goal of 25 percent of the student population.

The priority of the “Hunger and Homelessness” campaign is to educate students about food insecurity on campus and destigmatize the issue as a whole. Jonathan Lee, the coordinator for this campaign spoke about their plans to work with the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy, People’s Market, the dean of student affairs and the on-campus service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

“We will be working with them to really make our student food pantry larger. Alpha Phi Omega currently runs the student food pantry,” said Lee. “We are working on the donation drive aspect of the food pantry to make sure it’s always stocked and make sure it’s always there for students who need it.”

The campaign is also working to fundraise for Craig’s Place Shelter, a homeless shelter in Amherst.

The “Save the Bees,” campaign is in its second semester at UMass after having been created in spring 2018. Their ultimate goal is to certify the campus as “bee friendly.”

Campaign coordinator Victoria Ferrara-Lawlor spoke about how in the past they worked on getting petitions, hosting events and creating a plan that ultimately culminated to the current campaign with a goal set on completing the seven criteria needed for the certification. These criteria include establishing a committee and developing a habitat plan, hosting awareness events and offering pollinator focused courses and/or workshops.

“This semester is largely focused on coalition building, getting other students involved, getting other groups involved to make it more feasible task along with creating the committee and trying to get this management plan done,” said Ferrara-Lawlor.

The goal of the “Affordable Textbooks” campaign is to have three classes switch over to open educational resources or open-source textbooks. Over time, they would like to see as many courses as possible use open-source textbooks, particularly introductory courses with the highest of students in attendance.

“Textbook prices have skyrocketed over the past couple decades, far outpacing housing, healthcare, education and even just regular tuition,” campaign coordinator John Coviello said. “This is because five big publishers’ control over 80 percent of the market and students are captive consumers of them.”

The campaign is looking for solutions in the computer science field, particularly open-source software as a means of accessing free textbooks online with print versions costing the amount of ink needed to print them.

The mission statement of the “New Voters Project” according to its campaign coordinator Gabriela Colmenares is to educate and inform students on not only the importance registering but also act as a resource for answers to questions they may have about voting

The campaign is working to register about 2,500 students to vote on campus and 5,000 across all the Massachusetts chapters. They plan to work with SGA, CEPA, UMass Democrats and other registered student organizations to educate the student body on voting.

“We are definitely being a bit more educational-based and not just registering and getting people to go out to the polls but using that education to push them to take action which is then the polling,” said Colmenares.

Bonnie Chen can be reached at [email protected]

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