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 Boston students?
We want UMB 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 UMass Boston 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 $9 per-student, per-semester waivable fee that appears on your tuition bill. Students first voted to form and fund our chapter in 1973. 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 Boston, students have voted affirmatively to fund our MASSPIRG Chapter for the past 48 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, and over 5,000 of those being from UMass Boston. 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. We hosted various virtual events, including a “Why I Vote” video creation session, in partnership with the UMB Vote Coalition including groups such as the Undergraduate Student Government, College Democrats, College Republicans, NAACP, the Office of Student Leadership & Civic Engagement, and the Office of Off-Campus Housing.
- 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 Student Trustee Kush Patel, Dean of University Libraries Joanne Riley, Provost Berger, and Associate CIO Apurva Mehta 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 UMB, we’ve run food and clothing drives to support local homeless shelters in the Greater Boston area. Before going remote in Spring 2020, we donated over 50 clothing items to Rosie’s Place in Boston. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many people’s living situations and ability to have their basic needs met have been challenged even more. So, we have been distributing websites for people to find the resources they need, including the curbside pick-up option at U-ACCESS, UMass Boston’s on-campus food pantry.
- 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 over 1,500 from UMass Boston 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 over 10 from UMass Boston) 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/
Patrick Joseph, Assistant Director for Office of Off-Campus Living
“I’ve been able to see the wonderful contributions MASSPIRG has managed to make towards educating and getting our students registered to vote in the 2020 Presidential election while a part of the UMB Voting Coalition.
Having a group like this to keep students engaged and informed in what’s happening on the national and local stage of government is imperative to helping students engage with the world around them in a meaningful way.”
Alex Killian, former USG President, Class of 2020
“In my experience working with MASSPIRG, I’ve known them to be a dedicated group of fellow students from across the UMass Boston community. Through their efforts in promoting student-oriented change – whether that be through OER, which would revolutionize how (and how much) students pay for textbooks; through their sustainability initiatives, which aim for UMB to contribute to the fight against climate change; or through their student voting drives, encouraging any and all students to take civic responsibility and take part in local or national elections – it’s plain to see that the work these volunteers do is worthy and valuable, and deserving of a home here at UMass Boston.”
Nick Adams, President of UMB College Democrats and USG Senator
“I would like to give my full support to the work that MASSPIRG does for UMass Boston students, students across our Commonwealth, and nation. I have worked with MASSPIRG in many capacities across campus, and I wholeheartedly believe that they are invested in their mission to give students a voice in government and support our interests. Keeping MASSPIRG at UMass Boston is vital to student interests, from their advocacy on making systems of higher educational finance fairer for us through the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights and fighting for increased funding for Pell Grants, to providing an excellent opportunity for students to engage in the political process through their internships and voter registration programs. I fully support continuing MASSPIRG’s funding through the $9 waivable fee that students get to weigh in on every few years during USG elections and at the time when they pay their bill.”
Jamie Leavitt, President of UMB College Republicans
“During my time as Vice President and President of UMB College Republicans I have gotten to work alongside MASSPIRG as part of the UMB Vote Coalition and they have been an important part of getting UMB students registered to vote and having their voices heard.”
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, sign our petition for 100% renewable energy and check off that you’re interested in getting involved!
If you still have more questions, please contact us at [email protected]