MASSPIRG in the UMass Amherst FAQ

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.

Catherine Sales, New Voters Project campaign coordinator, walked students through the voting process at the Student Farmer’s Market

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 was the result of the last MASSPIRG funding vote?

In Spring of 2024, 79% of students that voted in the student government elections voted YES to continue funding MASSPIRG on campus.

What are some of MASSPIRG’s recent accomplisments?

  • Fighting hunger on campus: We’ve been building support for the Hunger Free Campus Initiative, a statewide bill that would help end food insecurity on college campuses in Massachusetts. 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. We spoke before the Joint Committee on Higher Education in addition to hearing from the Commissioner of Higher Education. Students also went out and met with their legislators to build support for the Hunger Free Campus Initiative so that no student goes hungry in the Commonwealth. Our hard work paid off when the Governor signed a new state budget with $1 million in pilot funding for the Hunger Free Campus Initiative!

    And in addition to advocating for policy change at the state level, we also held dozens of service events, for National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 11-18th) like food drives and fundraisers to give back to students and our communities – just this semester UMass Amherst students collected 727 pounds of food for the Amherst Survival Center, partnering with the Student Government and sororities Delta Kappa Delta and Kappa Phi Gamma!
MASSPIRG students testify at the State House in favor of the Hunger Free Campus Initiative.
  • 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. 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 14,000 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 2022 midterm elections, we made over 20,000 youth voter contacts across the state, contributing to historic youth voter turnout. And we won a leadership award from the Students Learn Students Vote coalition for our efforts!
MASSPIRG students turn out the vote at on campus.
  • Making 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 educational resources (OER). Recently, we convinced our federal leaders in congress to allocate $14 million to open education resource programs, saving students hundreds of millions of dollars in textbooks costs. In Massachusetts, we worked with State Representative Mindy Domb to introduce a bill to fund OER resources in the state. And here at UMass Amherst, we’re working to promote the university’s open textbook grant program and make it easier for professors on our campus to make this switch, including holding an OER Oscars event to provide awards for faculty who are doing the most to make their course materials affordable for students.
MASSPIRG students host an OER Oscars event to encourage faculty to assign free open textbooks.
  • Tackling the climate crisis: We’re working to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and prevent 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. On Earth Day of 2022, we won their six year long campaign to get the university committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032. Now we’re working to make sure MA commits to a goal of getting 100 percent of our energy from clean, safe, renewable sources by passing the 100% Clean Act. So far, over 9,000 UMass Amherst students have signed our petition for 100 percent clean energy statewide.
MASSPIRG students rally outside of the State House before their lobby day for the 100% Clean Act.

See more victories from across the state here!

Who has endorsed MASSPIRG?

We are proud to have the endorsement of many student leaders, faculty, staff, and community partners. Here are some quotes of endorsement for MASSPIRG:

Get involved:

Want to join our efforts? We’d love to have you! First, follow us online:

If you want to volunteer or get a campus internship, learn more and apply here.

Questions?

If you still have more questions, please contact us at [email protected]