UConnPIRG increases students’ political awareness and participation

ConnPIRG hosts panelists who discuss with students the value of open source textbooks, how to make students more aware of cheaper forms of the textbooks they are buying as well as how professors and the university could help lessen the burden that students face when purchasing books for classes on April 13, 2017. (Ginikachi Anosike/The Daily Campus)

UConnPIRG is a student activism group that campaigns on and off campus to make a difference. Currently, they are campaigning to protect public funding for elections to the Connecticut General Assembly and offices statewide through the Citizens’ Election Program. This program receives its funding from the Citizens’ Election fund, which is predominately created from voluntary donations and proceeds from sales of abandoned properties in state custody. Yet, state budget cuts threaten the program as it receives scrutiny of state legislators from both parties. UConnPIRG thinks this program is important and is working for its maintenance. This campaign provides great experience for those within the organization and educates students about important topics in our local government.

UConnPIRG is hosting an event April 18 in the Student Union to increase awareness and support for the campaign. This includes inviting well known Connecticut politicians such as (state Rep., D-Mansfield) Gregg Haddad and (state Sen., D-Killingly) Mae Flexer, as well as possibly some Republican politicians to display bipartisan support. The event will be a panel where the politicians discuss how the Citizens’ Election Program empowered and aided their candidacy. This event displays the great initiative of UConnPIRG to educate students and allow politicians to directly communicate with young adults.

The group has also reached out to local officials to counteract big money. In fall 2015, UConnPIRG reached out to Mansfield officials trying to get them to say publically that they would not take big money donations in local elections, according to Alexander Pawlak, UConnPIRG treasurer and sixth-semester psychology and accounting major. Though they responded saying they thought it wasn’t for them, it is amazing that this group reaches out to local officials and provides students with opportunities to become more educated and involved in politics.

Volunteer for the group’s Democracy campaign and fourth-semester political science major Matthew Byanyima worries that if the budget cuts affect this program they will be permanent. He is worried that cutting this program will continue the trend of decreased trust in the government due to the involvement of big money. UConnPIRG is providing students, such as Byanyima, opportunities to learn about, discuss and participate in local politics, which is wonderful experience both as students and for life after graduation.