What is MASSPIRG?
MASSPIRG is a statewide student-run and student-funded advocacy group working to protect the environment, make college more affordable, and to help students get registered to vote. We work locally on college campuses, and have professional staff, like organizers, advocates, and lobbyists in Boston and DC, who work with us to make sure we make tangible changes. We bring issues that happen in the real world to college students so they don’t have to wait until graduation to make a difference.
Why is MASSPIRG beneficial for UMass Amherst students?
We want UMA students to have the opportunity to be engaged citizens and make a real, tangible difference on issues that matter to us and society. We think that having our voices heard in the broader political process by voting in elections, signing petitions for causes we care about, and gaining tangible leadership skills helps to fulfill this mission, and the mission of our UMass Amherst as well.
Beyond making a difference on issues that affect all of us – whether that’s locally, statewide, or nationally – MASSPIRG offers students on campus hands-on training in a variety of skill sets that include public speaking, formal writing, planning events, and working collaboratively with other students and members of the government, to name a few. Our campaigns educate and engage students in current events and civics and make it possible for students here to start making a difference right now, instead of waiting until graduation.
How is MASSPIRG funded and directed?
We are funded by students through a $11 per-student, per-semester waivable fee that appears on your tuition bill. Students first voted to form and fund our chapter in 1972. We pool those resources with other chapters across the state and hire professional staff like organizers, lobbyists, and advocates, who work alongside us to advocate on our behalf, run strategic grassroots campaigns, and win reforms that help improve the quality of life for everyone.
Students make the decisions on what campaigns we run locally and which issues we prioritize statewide. The core group of MASSPIRG students on each campus elect student leaders to represent their campus at the statewide level on our Board of Directors. MASSPIRG is open to any and all students who want to participate. The student body at large has the opportunity to reaffirm their support of funding our own advocacy group every few years. Here at UMass Amherst students have voted affirmatively to fund our MASSPIRG Chapter for the past 50 years.
What have we accomplished?
- Increasing the youth vote and civic engagement: We are the largest and most diverse generation alive, and we need to vote to have our voices heard. In the last 15 years, MASSPIRG has helped to register over 45,000 students to vote, including 14000 students here at UMass Amherst. We help to increase youth voting by engaging people face to face, over the phone, and through creative social media outreach tactics. In the 2020 elections, we made over 50,000 youth voter contacts across the state, contributing to historic youth voter turnout.
- Making textbooks more affordable: One of our priority campaigns right now is working to make textbooks more affordable. We’ve been working locally, statewide, and at the national level to reduce textbook costs for decades – and we’ve made a lot of progress by helping professors switch to free, open-source materials that cost very little for students. Recently, we convinced our federal leaders in congress to allocate $7 million to open education resource programs, saving students $170 million in textbooks costs. Here at UMass Boston we’re working with xyz people to spread awareness and make it easier for professors on our campus to make this switch. In addition we’re calling on the state to double the funding for open educational resource programs in the 2021 budget.
- Supporting students’ basic needs: MASSPIRG has been working to alleviate hunger and homelessness for decades. Here at UMass Amherst, we recently re-launched our Hunger & Homelessness Campaign and worked with SGA to pass a resolution in support of a Swipe Out Hunger Program. We are currently working on starting a student-run food pantry with the help of the SGA, APO, and other Food Security groups. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many people’s living situations and ability to get their basic needs met have been challenged even more. So, we have worked to publicize websites for people to find resources they need, including food pantries, shelters, and emotional comfort.
- Tackling the climate crisis: We work to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and reverse the worst impacts of climate change. In 2008, we helped to pass the Global Warming Solutions Act in MA which helped us set goals to reduce our carbon emissions which we’re on track to hit. Now we’re working to make sure MA commits to a goal of getting 100% of our energy from clean, safe, renewable sources. Just this semester, we’ve collected over 10,000 signatures in support of this effort, including almost 3,000 from UMA students.
- Protecting students as consumers: In January 2021, our advocacy and organizing efforts resulted in the passage of the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights, which will protect the 855,500 students who have had to take out loans to pay for college from unfair and deceptive lending practices by loan servicing companies. Our professional staff advocates and student leaders testified on Beacon Hill each time this bill came up for discussion. In the final weeks of the legislative session, we delivered letters signed by over 100 student leaders from across campuses in MA (including 34 from UMA) to the key decision-makers, including Governor Baker, to get this bill over the finish line.
See more victories here: https://masspirgstudents.org/recent-victories/
Want to join our efforts? We’d love to have you!
First, follow us online:
If you want to volunteer or learn more about our internship program, learn more here.
If you still have more questions, please contact us here:
Chapter Chair – Jarrett Taylor, [email protected]
Campus Organizer – Marissa Zampino, [email protected], 609-705-3337
Statewide Organizing Director – Sam Gibb, [email protected] 608-385-1285
General contact address – [email protected]