Fighting Hunger On Campus
This semester, one of our top priorities was building support for the Hunger Free Campus Initiative, a statewide bill that would help end food insecurity on college campuses in Massachusetts. More than 1,000 students took action by signing our petition, making a phone call to their legislator, or writing a letter. And at the end of March, we held a statewide lobby day with our friends at the Hunger Free Campus Coalition and turned out over 60 students and community activists. MASSPIRG student leaders Sean Simonini and Diego Maldonado, pictured here, hosted our welcome event at the State House, and in just one day, we met with over 30 legislative offices and got FIVE legislators to co-sponsor the Hunger Free Campus bill!
37% of the public university/college students in Massachusetts experience food insecurity. The Hunger Free Campus Initiative would address this issue by funding eligible institutions to expand resources like food pantries, food vendors that accept food stamps, and meal swipe donation programs.
MASSPIRG student leader Diego Maldonado presents the Hunger Free Campus Initiative to Massachusetts Department of Higher Education Commissioner Noe Ortega
And in addition to advocating for policy change at the state level, we also held dozens of service events like food drives and fundraisers to give back to students and our communities – just this year, we donated over a thousand food items!
Building a 100% Renewable Energy Future
Building off of our huge victory last spring of getting UMass Amherst committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032, we turned our sights to the state level, calling for passage of the 100% Clean Act – which would get our entire state on track to be clean energy powered – and the Million Solar Roofs Initiative – a state level commit to install the equivalent of one million solar roofs by 2030. In total, more than 2,500 students took action to support our campaign, as did 150 local officials and health professionals and 9 mayors. We then held over 40 lobby meetings to bring that support directly to decision makers at the State House!
MASSPIRG student leaders Sierra Dearns and Deigo Maldonado participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for Salem State University’s new rooftop solar installation.
Making Textbooks More Affordable
It’s no secret that textbook prices are a rip-off. We’ve been exposing the textbook publishing industry and calling for solutions like open education resources (OER) for decades. This year, we released our 21st report on textbook affordability, titled “Open Textbooks: The Billion Dollar Solution” to call for more free open textbooks in classrooms. We worked with State Representative Mindy Domb to introduce a bill to fund OER resources in the state, we held “OERscars” events to present awards to faculty that are saving students money by assigning free or low-cost course materials, and during Open Education Week held an online panel discussion on successful OER strategies with the MA Department of Education, Representative Domb, the UMass Amherst library, and our partners at SPARC.
MASSPIRG student leader Gent Haviari (top left) hosts a statewide OER panel with the MA Department of Education, State Representative Mindy Domb, the UMass Amherst library, and our partners at SPARC.
OER Oscars award ceremony at UMass Amherst
Federal Lobby Day
In addition to our state level advocacy, we also sent ten MASSPIRG student leaders to Washington DC for a national leadership training and federal Student PIRG lobby day – advocating for concrete solutions to problems such as textbook affordability, plastic pollution and the right to repair our stuff – like our smartphones and tablets. In addition to meeting with the offices of elected officials such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and Congresswoman Katherine Clark, we also met with staff from the White House, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
All Made Possible by the $9-11 Waivable Fee
All of this campaign work is made possible because of the students across the state who pay their MASSPIRG fee. Every few years, students at MASSPIRG chapter campuses vote to reaffirm their support of our work by funding our MASSPIRG chapter with the $9-11 per-student per-semester waivable fee. Students pool their resources together statewide with other MASSPIRG chapters to hire staff, such as advocates, lobbyists, and organizers, to work with students on issues that they care about and represent students where decisions are made—in Boston and Washington D.C.
This year students on 8 campuses voted to reaffirm support for their MASSPIRG chapter. Below are just a few quotes of support that we wanted to share:
The problems that MASSPIRG tackles are large, statewide, and often national in scope. Our goals are not simply for students to “make their voices heard” on these issues, but to win concrete reforms that improve people’s lives. In order to make real, substantial change, we combine student enthusiasm with professional staff to run our effective statewide organization.
In addition, we could not run strategic local campaigns without strong partnerships with campus leaders and community members, or without advice and support from folks like you. So thank you for your ongoing support!
P.S. If you’re interested in a fall internship with MASSPIRG on your campus, please submit an application on our website here!