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The UMass Lowell MASSPIRG Chapter takes steps to make changes nationally

(Photo courtesy “The UML MASSPIRG chapter.”

Kayla Jewett
Connector Editor

We all know how expensive college is, with the cost of living, food and the skyrocketing cost of textbooks. These are all reasons causing students to become restricted in their education. Thankfully, we have the UMass Lowell MASSPIRG Chapter, which runs campaigns to alleviate poverty and make college more affordable. The chapter has run campaigns such as “Hunger and Homelessness,” “Open Education Resources” and so many more over the past 50 years to help relieve these issues. The UMass Lowell MASSPIRG Chapter organizes students on our campus to play an active role in making our society a better place by running local, statewide and national campaigns on issues that affect us as students and citizens.

“There was a terrifying statistic that came out of the President’s office last year that said that roughly 37% of students on state campuses had at some point faced housing and/or food insecurity,” says MASSPIRG’s student Chapter Chair Sean Simonini. The MASSPIRG organization took it upon itself to work against this statistic by partnering with the Strive Pantry. Students can go there with no questions asked and take as much from the pantry as they need.

In the fall of 2022, the organization had a “Trick or Eat” event, where they put slips on doorsteps in Lowell that asked for nonperishable food items for a food pantry and instructed them to leave the food outside their door for MASSPRIG members to come back, collect the food and bring it to the pantry. Simonini states, “We collected over 200 items from this program, it was the largest donation to the food pantry in their entire existence and we were so incredibly proud of that. We’ve seen that success with food drives echoed on other campaigns and it’s something that we’re hoping to do again this spring.”

They operate on college campuses across the state to run campaigns on issues to win concrete reforms on behalf of the public interest. This usually involves advocates working directly with decision-makers in Boston or Washington, D.C., along with students and organizers working in communities to build and demonstrate public support for concrete solutions. Their professional advocates in DC helped prevent a $2.6 billion cut to Pell grant funding in 2018, protecting the ability of thousands of students to afford a college education and are currently working to double Pell grant funding in the 2021 federal budget.

The MASSPIRG Chapters also helped pass the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2018, which set the highest standards for reducing global warming emissions in the entire country. Building off of this landmark victory to tackle the climate crisis, they launched the 100% renewable energy campaign in 2016 and have successfully signed on a majority of legislators to endorse the bill in the last few years.

This is all possible because the students here at UMass Lowell have voted for the past 46 years to have a MASSPIRG Chapter, which is funded through an $11 waivable fee that appears on the tuition bill. This money, including funding from students across the state, allows the organization to have a bigger impact on these issues at the state and national level by hiring advocates,

lawyers, organizers, etc. to help run an effective campaign that has a stronger voice where decisions are made.

MASSPIRG has volunteer and internship opportunities regarding important issues for younger people, including turning out the youth vote, fighting climate change, making textbooks more affordable and alleviating hunger and homelessness. There are tons of ways to get involved, whether you have 10 hours a week or 10 hours for the entire semester.

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