UNCG is offering a new opportunity for students who desire to make a change in their school, community, state and nation. During the fall semester of 2017, American Public Interest Research Group, (PIRG) added a chapter at UNCG to help further their initiative.
PIRG is a non-profit national organization that started in the early 1970s. According to uspirg.org, “U.S. PIRG is an advocate for the public interest, working to win concrete results on real problems that affect millions of lives, standing for the public against powerful interests when they push the other way.” The organization has “researchers, advocates and staff in 25 states,” and continues to grow.
In an interview with Terrence Rollins and Kameryn Taylor, two members of the UNCG chapter of NCPIRG, they discussed the activities and goals of the organization. Taylor noted that some of the substantial efforts made by the chapter in the short time that they have been on campus are things such as “hunger and homelessness, protecting and promoting democracy,” and “free textbook” campaigns.
Their free textbook campaigns were particularly successful endeavors for the NCPIRG teams at UNCG, UNC and NC State. Of this success, Rollins said, “[The] North Carolina region attained the most signatures for petitioning from students.” Students will surely be glad to hear that the NCPIRG has attained “pledges from 48 professors at UNCG to keep college affordable,” by providing students with cheaper textbooks.
Recently, this initiative had a very successful result. According to uspirg.org, on Wednesday, March 21, the United States Congress “introduced its budget omnibus bill for the 2018 fiscal year, in which appropriators set aside $5 million for a program to lower textbooks costs for students.”
While these national results regarding textbooks have been beyond satisfactory, the UNCG chapter of NCPIRG is not only focused on national issues. In fact, Rollins said that their “‘Hunger and Homelessness Campaign’ helps local shelters and is in the works with the UNCG Cafeteria to get a food swipe donation program for students to donate swipes to other students who don’t have any.”
Rollins also attributed the success of the organization to the way that they operate.
“[We] operate on a triad based upon visibility, leadership development and campus relations, and that’s how [they] know [they] are running a successful campaign.”
The campus relations aspect of this triad is impossible without student involvement. While students may feel uneasy about getting involved with a public interest group due to conflicting political ideals, Rollins and Taylor said they need not worry, as NCPIRG is a politically non-partisan group.
“[We] set political ideals aside to get road work done,” said Rollins.
Rollins and Taylor feel that whatever work that a member does is important work. “Whether you are a campaign coordinator or volunteer, your work has value,” said Rollins. He also accredited the development of many of his social skills to his time working with NCPIRG.
NCPIRG, Taylor said, is also “great for your resume.” Both Rollins and Taylor are interns with the organization and expressed having a positive experience.
The NCPIRG sector involves UNC and NC State as well as UNCG, and from April 6 to April 8, all three chapters will get together for a retreat. At this retreat, they will attempt to further “strategize” for future movements as well as connect with one another.
All students, Rollins and Taylor said, are welcome to join the organization. The organization holds meetings at 6 p.m. every Tuesday in the EUC, in either the campus organization room on the top floor, or the Office of Intercultural Engagement room on the bottom floor.
If a student comes across a NCPIRG table on campus, they can also receive further information from the member tabling. The UNCG chapter of NCPIRG can also be reached through their pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The UNCG chapter of NCPIRG has accomplished much in less than two semesters at the university and continues to strive, Rollins and Taylor said, to do more in the coming years.