Student activist group UConnPIRG will undertake a wide variety of initiatives this semester, including their “100 Percent Renewable Energy” and “No Bees, No Food” campaigns, as well as their “New Voters Project.”
UConnPIRG campus organizer Arielle Mizrahi said an increase in volunteers and a focus on the eight campaigns they will pursue this semester are at the center of UConnPIRG’s goals.
“We have a goal of getting as many students involved in the chapter right now, getting started with our campaigns,” Mizrahi said. “Our lead campaign is our ‘100 Percent Renewable Energy’ campaign which is to get UConn to commit to… 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, which is a pretty ambitious goal.”
UConnPIRG plans to take on even more initiatives this semester than they have in the past, Mizrahi said.
“We’re running seven other campaigns,” Mizrahi said. “We usually run between four and six, so this is definitely pushing it.”
The “Stop Overuse of Antibiotics” campaign aims to put a stop to overuse of antibiotics in factory farms, according to Mizrahi.
“We have gotten, across the country as student PIRGs, McDonald’s, Subway and KFC to commit to stopping purchasing meats raised on routine medical antibiotics, so this semester we are really focused on getting McDonald’s to have a timeline set for phasing out the use of routine antibiotics in beef and pork,” Mizrahi said.
UConnPIRG Vice Chair Walter Dodson said the organization will also continue to take on the “Save the Bees” campaign, which has led to the university obtaining a national accreditation as a bee-friendly campus.
“This semester, we are looking to get the town of Mansfield to become a bee friendly city,” Dodson said.
Affordable textbooks are another continued effort of UConnPIRG this semester, according to Dodson.
“Our state board chair is working with the vice provost of the libraries and we were the ones who pioneered that $100,000 grant that we got for OpenStax books,” Dodson said.
UConnPIRG will also further work on their “New Voters Project,” which helped to register 2,500 students to vote and increased voter turnout in Mansfield by 23 percent with the UConn Vote Coalition in 2016, according to Dodson.
“We are trying to institutionalize voter registration on campus, so our big goal is to have an incoming class of freshman who are 100 percent registered to vote, so we are going to try to work with Orientation Services,” Dodson said.
Homelessness and hunger is another issue that is on the minds of those at UConnPIRG, Dodson said. The “Homelessness and Hunger” campaign aims to alleviate hunger and homelessness in the surrounding area, with an emphasis on Willimantic and Windham County.
“Tolland County is the third wealthiest county in Connecticut, which is where UConn is, and then Willimantic is in Windham County which is the poorest county in Connecticut,” Dodson said. “We are trying to work to help the homeless community as much as possible.”
There are plans for homelessness awareness events in the spring semester, according to Dodson.
“We are doing a sleep out in late April/early May and we will have a bunch of students who are going to sleep out somewhere on campus just to show how hard it actually is,” Dodson said.
UConnPIRG will continue their environmental efforts with plans to continue research on zero waste this semester and to reduce plastic bag consumption in the town of Mansfield, according to Mizrahi.
The final campaign that UConnPIRG will pursue this semester is a democracy campaign centered on changing campus elections to ordinal ballots, Dodson said.
“Last semester we did a whole bunch of work on it, but it didn’t come to fruition for various reasons, and so this semester we are going to hold a panel on the pros and the cons of rank choice (ordinal ballots),” Dodson said. “Some of our goals there are trying to get all USG elections to be rank choice. Actually, our PIRG office elections are all rank choice so we really practice what we preach.”
UConnPIRG hopes to accomplish all of these goals with an even larger group of volunteers than last year, according to Mizrahi.
“People can always come to the office in SU 214 if they would like to get involved and we will be all around campus this week recruiting people to volunteer,” Mizrahi said.
EllieAnn Lesko is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.