The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Featured Org of the Week: MPIRG

By Tressa Versteeg

The Mac Weekly talked to Julia Hechler ’11, Thom Boik ’09 and Joanna Dobson ’11, members of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), to find out what’s behind the acronym. The Mac Weekly: What is MPIRG?
Thom Boik: We are a statewide, student-run, nonprofit organization committed to grassroots organizing and civic education that has been working on social, environmental and democracy issues in Minnesota since 1971. MPIRG teams students with professional staff who work with us to develop, run and win grassroots campaigns.

Joanna Dobson: MPIRG is exciting for us as young people because it is an entirely student-run organization. Minnesota’s college students are the driving force in the issues we work on. Then, we work through channels that get things done and make positive change for real people. It’s grassroots organizing at its finest.

TMW: What are the goals of the organization?
Julia Hechler: Our issues right now are: democracy, fair trade, the environment and affordable housing and homelessness.Last spring all MPIRG members could vote on which issues to tackle this year. The schools picked issues they wanted to work on from the statewide list of issues…Our goals are to give students the means with which to fight for social and environmental justice at Macalester and in Minnesota. Students have the opportunity to decide exactly what to work on…We pick issues that we know we are going to be able to make a difference in, and goals we know we are going to attain.

TMW: How many students are involved in the Macalester chapter?
JH: ‘MacPIRG’ had over 100 people at our intro meeting Sept.16. Since then, we’ve averaged about 50 people. We are one of the largest student orgs at Macalester, and Macalester probably has the biggest MPIRG chapter in Minnesota. There are three co-chairs, Jenni Schubert ’11, Joanna Dobson ’11 and myself, as well as seven task force leaders.–

TMW: What kinds of events have you held so far? What do you have planned for the future?
TB: MPIRG recently launched an aggressive youth voter engagement campaign, No Youth Vote Left Behind. We recognize that as young people our issues aren’t taken as seriously in the political realm. Our voices are regularly ignored by politicians from both parties who’d rather listen to wealthy donors. We want to change that.

JH: Our goal was to register 10,000 youth to vote before the deadline Oct. 14. We exceeded this goal by over 5,000 people. MacPIRG has also co-sponsored debate watching parties. After the first debate, our Democracy task force leaders, Joe Rasmussen ’11 and Maren Hagman ’11, led a discussion, which went very well. We also had a debate between Erin Murphy and Meg Ferber Oct. 22. We will throw a huge Get Out the Vote campaign on Election Day.

We have also worked on getting fair trade bananas, rice, chocolate and sugar into Café Mac and/or The Grille. The kick-off day for Fair Trade month was Oct. 7. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, we have fair trade chocolate at the Grille, and even had a golden ticket competition. Right now, we have fair trade bananas everyday and are well on our way to making [Fair Trade] rice, chocolate and sugar available everyday.Also, we will have people dressed up in costume to promote Fair Trade, there will be a banana and gorilla costume involved.

Affordable Housing and Homelessness is working with The Family Place, a family homeless shelter. We have raised over $80 for a new mattress. November will be Homelessness Awareness Month. We will be working with Simpson House shelter, with a “Shelter Speak” Nov. 1. We will also start work on foreclosures in the coming months.

The Environment task force is working on getting students to sign Power Vote pledges, which asks students to make the environment a priority in deciding who to vote for. We had a river clean-up Oct. 11 at the Missippi River, near Summit and Mississippi River Blvd. We picked up about nine bags of trash. Also, this task force will work with Healthy Legacy amd might work on composting at Macalester, banning destructive toxins in products, getting sweatshop-free apparel and possibly fight for coal-free power plants.

TMW: Why are you involved in MPRIG?
JH: I am involved with MPIRG because the organization actually makes a difference. We get results. I feel strongly about the issues we work on. It is important that students work actively to promote the changes they want to take place. MPIRG has a great group of people and we also know how to have fun!

TMW: What is your favorite part about MPIRG?
JH: My favorite part about being in MPIRG is that I’m a part of a movement where students are taking control of issues that are important to them, all the while having fun with the people we “work” with. Most of the time, it doesn’t actually feel like work.

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