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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Letter to the Editor: CALPIRG accomplishes real social change

To the Editor:

Re: “Humor: CALPIRG member released from contract with the devil after collecting enough pledges” by Madeline Kumagai (humor piece, Feb. 21):

I was pleased to see that The California Aggie wrote a piece on our pledge system — but frankly, as I read, I was a bit saddened that our organization, which works to make real social change both on campus and at the legislative level, had been completely misrepresented, whether it was for comedic purposes or not.
CALPIRG is an organization that has been around for over 45 years, and we work to engage students and citizens in public interest issues. Each year, across each of the UC schools, we run campaigns that work to make school more affordable, clean up our environment, register students to vote and more. In the midst of running these campaigns, we are constantly being trained by our full-time, hired staff member, whose job it is to teach us to be effective activists. We are completely student-led, meaning that our board of directors is made up of entirely students. We are also completely student-funded. When we ask students to pledge and charge their tuition bill $10, this does not just go toward materials required to put on an event.
The $10 goes to a wide range of opportunities for us to make social change possible. Like I said, we have a full-time staff member who does much of the administrative work as well as trains us. We also hold three conferences every quarter, in Santa Barbara, Davis and Santa Cruz. In two weeks, we will hold our winter conference, where 100 CALPIRG students go to Sacramento to lobby our elected officials. Our funding makes this possible.
We also get special lobbying opportunities. Last spring, I was flown out to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress on the Pell Grant. This was under attack by the Trump administration, and with over 30 students from Student PIRGs across the country lobbying our elected officials, we were able to secure a 5 million dollar bond on open-source textbooks.
CALPIRG accomplishes real social change, and while, yes, we may take five whole minutes out of students’ days to teach them why our work matters and why their $10 fee matters, it is important that our organization does not get misrepresented on campus.
I have gained so much from CALPIRG since getting involved almost two years ago. I am a more confident public speaker, I can run a volunteer event and I even know how to power map important decision makers. I also pledge the $10 because I know it is contributing toward not only making social change but empowering students to make sure our voices are heard.


The writer is a fourth-year anthropology major and the chapter chair of CALPIRG students at UC Davis.


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