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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Activism, Shelter and Alternative Energy

Activism, Shelter and Alternative Energy

Massachusetts Student Public Interest Research Group, MASSPIRG, is committed to educating and empowering college students to make effective changes in social issues that impact humanity and the environment.

“There’s so much power that college students have,” Jacqui Tolbert, the organizer for UMass Boston’s chapter of MASSPIRG, said. “Every great social movement in our country has been lead and has been won by college students. You just have to empower them to change these problems. Somebody has to stop the madness, and if it’s going to be anybody it’s going to be us.”

From issues of homelessness, consumer activism, renewable energy and student rights, MASSPIRG works not only to raise awareness in students, but also to raise awareness in the legislators responsible for policy change. One of the projects MASSPIRG is working on is an affordable textbooks initiative.

“The average student in Massachusetts spends $900 a year on textbooks,” Tolbert said. “By 2015 it could be up to $8,000, and that’s ridiculous. We’re going to be doing a textbook horror story table where people can write down how much they had to spend. We’re trying to create an anthology so legislators know this is how much students spend. Something like that, something that you can see is a story, it really humanizes it instead of being some statistic. The numbers are great but seeing the person that’s suffering, that means so much more.”

Tolbert is also excited about the Campus Climate Challenge, a program designed to help schools limit their impact on global warming and educate students on solutions.

“When people talk about global warming they get so focused on the doom and gloom of the situation, but we’re so focused on the solutions that are out there, like wind and solar energy,” Tolbert said. “We’re going to have education events to talk about alternative energy sources, have a clean car show with hybrid and electric cars and really show the technology that’s out there that we should be utilizing. We also want to have an environmental film festival with movies like An Inconvenient Truth, and Who Killed the Electric Car.”

MASSPIRG will also be putting out 252 pinwheels to represent the number of wind turbines that would be needed to power the city of Boston, and ask students to sign a climate pledge to show their commitment to combating global warming.

Tolbert, who is a non-student but full-time employee of MASSPIRG, has been impressed with the UMass Boston student body’s interest in activating change. More than 60 people turned out for the organization’s semester kickoff and have signed up as volunteers.

“We thrive and run on volunteers,” she said. “We also have a really great internship program where students can earn college credit for volunteering and committing to work on the issues.”

She also understands that the demands on students’ time can limit their availability for volunteer work.

“But no matter how much time people have, that’s the time we need,” Tolbert said. “These problems are so huge, we really need everyone to just give a little.”

On October 2, MASSPIRG students will convene at the state house at 10:30 am to support a textbook bill being heard at 11 am. For more information about MASSPIRG, visit www.MASSPIRGstudents.org.