I write in unabashed, unequivocal support of MPIRG’s continued presence at Macalester. For over 40 years, MPIRG has been a constant presence on campuses across the state, working to improve life for students on campus, locally and statewide. Though the organization’s model has evolved over the years, the core mission has stayed the same: to make students’ voices matter. Over the years, the organization and its students have consistently innovated and broken new ground in public policy and advocacy, teaching young people to articulate and effect their vision for Minnesota, and making real progress in areas like environmental sustainability, working in a coalition to expand access to mental health resources at Mac and countless others.
The past few months have seen broad, wild accusations leveled against MacPIRG students and the organization as a whole. I cannot speak for all these allegations, but I can share my own experience. For three of my four years at Mac, I was involved with the MacPIRG chapter, an involvement which contributed greatly to my own understanding of change-making in Minnesota; this complemented my academic work in exactly the way a student organization should.
During my senior year, I served on MacPIRG’s leadership during the Vote November campaign, and I was constantly inspired by my fellow students’ efforts—chapter members or not—to beat back those hurtful, undemocratic amendments to the state constitution. Students, many of whom were working part-time jobs in addition to their studies, poured countless hours into the campaign, working to educate students and community members alike.
One thing I can say with certainty is that our affiliation with a statewide organization was extraordinarily beneficial, both on campus and for MacPIRG’s statewide goals. Organizing one or two precincts around Macalester, while useful, pales in comparison to the statewide impact that MPIRG was able to build by pooling thousands of students together. Through collective action, our chapters can achieve goals more effectively and on a bigger scale than any Macalester group could possibly hope to achieve alone.
Having graduated, I am now working for statewide MPIRG as a door-to-door canvasser. The canvass team, which comprises eight to 10 professional canvassers, is an important source of legislative clout for the organization; through this sort of outreach, we have educated and recruited over 100,000 community members as MPIRG supporters, which allows us to more effectively demand student-directed change at the State Capitol. Additionally, the canvass swells in size over the summer months, taking in students from across the state and training them to be confident, effective advocates— providing students with tangible skills necessary to non-profit work. It is no exaggeration to say that my time on the canvass has already been incredibly formative in building my confidence as a professional.
From my perspective as an alumnus, it has been disconcerting to follow these debates through The Mac Weekly, Mac Confessions (sad, but true) and various other online sources. I see lazy logic, simplified rhetoric and false choices. I cannot help but view the ‘no’ crowd as students who feel a malaise, who feel powerless, and who have chosen to wear down springs of student power instead of working to build their own voice.
This is the wrong response.
The right response is to work for positive change, to take the challenges facing this generation of students head-on, to take responsibility for our future. MPIRG does this work. So can you.