By Winter Hawk
The University of Maryland’s MaryPIRG chapter voted on Dec. 7 for campaign initiatives the organization will work on in the upcoming spring semester. The campaigns will focus on environmental, public health and student affordability issues.
MaryPIRG is a student-led advocacy and volunteer organization that facilitates student involvement in service initiatives. Campaigns for the fall semester consisted of a Student Climate Action Coalition, Zero Hunger initiative, Public Health initiative and New Voters Project, according to the MaryPIRG students website.
The Student Climate Action Coalition, Zero Hunger and Public Health campaigns will continue to run in the spring. New campaigns will focus on increasing textbook affordability and passing legislation to expand regulations regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock.
The textbook campaign, sponsored by junior public policy major Tatiana Johnson, will be working to get faculty from universities across Maryland to commit to using Open Educational Resources and other free textbook options in courses. The antibiotics campaign is sponsored by Akshaya Balaji, a freshman biology and environmental science and technology major, and will focus on persuading fast-food corporations to stop purchasing beef raised with antibiotics.
“Many of these campaigns that are focused [on] zero hunger, public health and textbooks will be focused on what students are experiencing now as well as before [the] pandemic,” said Greeshma Anand, the university’s MaryPIRG chapter president. “We want to reach out to other students and work on providing those resources, [and] advocating for what the students need [and] what the campus community needs.”
The non-profit and non-partisan organization receives funding each year through the student activities fee allocated by the Student Government Association Finance Committee.
“The Finance Committee has the authority to allocate about one million-plus dollars every year to student groups,” said Kane Zambelli, the chief financial officer of the finance committee. “Student groups request vastly different amounts of money for very different types of things.”
In the past, full- and part-time students had about .3% to .5% of their student activities fees allocated to MaryPIRG, Anand said in an email. In the spring, the SGA will vote on how much funding the organization will receive for the 2022 fiscal year based on MaryPIRG’s request of $31,803, as stated in the MaryPIRG Referendum Bill.
This means full-time students have had roughly $2 to $3 of their student activities fee allocated to MaryPIRG and about $1 to $2 for part-time students, said Anand in an email. This is an amount in line with the previous percent of funding allocated to MaryPIRG.
If the SGA approves the request, funding from the student activities fee will go to paying the salaries of the MaryPIRG campus organizer and state director. While funding does not directly affect the campaigns MaryPIRG runs, the campus organizer and state director play vital roles in writing legislation, providing resources and assisting with advocacy, said Anand.
“They’re effective [in] training us to be effective activists as we advocate for these issues that we’re passionate about,” said Anand.
MaryPIRG campaigns from the fall will continue to run during the winter break and new campaigns will start in the spring semester with lobbying days, panels and other events to rally student and community support around the initiatives.