Despite the changes that accompany this semester, UConnPIRG continues to get involved on campus through its many campaigns: the New Voters Project, Hunger and Homelessness, Affordable Textbooks and Save the Earth, by adapting to the virtual format.
“Though we’ve had to change our tactics, I know that we can still make an impact,” Chapter Chair Colleen Keller said in an email. “With meetings over Google, social media, and class announcements via Zoom, we’re still able to reach lots of students and continue making a difference.”
Since social media is now more important than ever, Keller said the use of social media this semester will allow the organization to get information to thousands of students, as well as contact legislators and start movements. Through the virtual format, UConnPIRG can now offer more events to students who may not have always been able to attend in-person events because of inclement weather or tend to things at home.
“Whether your concern is the climate crisis, housing or food insecurity; affordable education, access to voting, public health or the racial injustice our country is experiencing, there’s something you can do to take action, and we want to help you do that,” Keller, a fifth-semester history major, said.
“Whether your concern is the climate crisis, housing or food insecurity; affordable education, access to voting, public health or the racial injustice our country is experiencing, there’s something you can do to take action, and we want to help you do that.”
Since volunteering is nearly impossible with the virtual format, UConnPIRG’s Hunger and Homelessness campaign initially faced the issues of not being able to directly help those in need. However, the virtual format has made it easier for UConnPIRG to raise awareness about climate change and the increasing cost of higher education. Regardless, every campaign is working diligently to ensure that they can make a difference.
“Our Save the Earth campaign is spending this semester researching more climate-friendly options to recommend to the university, from organizations to contract with, to things we can do physically on campus, like more bee-friendly gardens,” Keller said.
This semester, UConnPIRG continues to work with the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) to continue the Husky Market. Keller said that Husky Market will look much different this semester than it has in the past. Since volunteering and having an in-person Husky Market poses risks to keeping people safe and socially distant, UConnPIRG and USG have adapted it to work in a virtual format.
“Right now, we’ve just released graphics encouraging UConn [undergraduate] students to apply for a six-week program where we, alongside USG, send them $30-50 gift cards weekly,” Keller said. “We want to make sure that we’re giving these resources to students who require financial assistance in accessing healthy and nutritious foods, which is why we’ve introduced the application process.”
Keller says that the organization hopes to help about 200 students with this new iteration of Husky Market, but in the future they hope to expand on the program, allowing them to help out even more students.
As the election nears, the New Voters Project campaign hopes to host virtual events leading up to election day to allow students to hear from speakers and ask questions. Also, they’re devising voter education toolkits for students. These toolkits will be distributed virtually and will include information on voter suppression, what to bring to the polls and more.
“We aren’t telling students who or what to vote for, instead, we’re giving them everything they need to get to the polls, or the mailbox, and feel confident in their vote,” Keller said.
“We aren’t telling students who or what to vote for, instead, we’re giving them everything they need to get to the polls, or the mailbox, and feel confident in their vote.”
Campaigns will continue to meet weekly in order to discuss plans and work on events. To stay up to date with the organization on events and resources, follow them on Instagram @UConnPIRG.