The New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) had their spring kick-off meeting on Feb. 1 to discuss their plans and expectations for the upcoming semester.
Rutgers’ local chapter of NJPIRG is an organization dedicated to serving students and the community at large by running campaigns to address timely social and environmental issues, said Jeannemarie Ryder, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and a member of the group.
“NJPIRG is the largest student run and student funded non-profit in the state,” she said. The kick-off meeting began with several guest speakers, including Ethan Schoolman, a professor in the Department of Human Ecology.
After an introduction to the organization and the speakers, each of NJPIRG’s several campaigns was highlighted by their respective leaders, Ryder said.
Each leader then broke off into a smaller, more focused group to discuss their plans for the semester. One main project for NJPIRG this semester is 100 Percent Renewable, 100 Percent Possible. The mission of this campaign is to get Rutgers to commit to implementing a climate plan to reduce their carbon footprint, Ryder said.
“By 2018 we want President (Robert L.) Barchi to sign onto ( the American Colleges and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment),” Ryder said.
The ambitious campaign plans to power Rutgers electrically through renewable energy by the year 2030, and have it completely powered by renewable energy by 2050, she said. They have many subsequent goals in mind to aid progress in achieving that goal.
”Smaller steps accumulate to make big changes,” Ryder said. Some of their more short-term goals include getting 5,250 student petitions supporting their cause, 95 faculty endorsements, 125 student group endorsements and more, she said. “We’re a group here on campus where people actually take action,” Ryder said.
Another campaign NJPIRG will be focusing on this semester is their open and affordable textbooks campaign, said April Nicklaus, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore and a member of the club. The idea of this campaign is to get more classes to use open-license textbooks, said
Open-license textbooks are free and just as reliable as other textbooks, she said. They are written by experts in their field and are also peer reviewed. “The average student spends upwards of $1,200 a year on textbooks,” Nicklaus said.
The program has worked with the Rutgers Office of Information Technology to develop a grant program, she said. Initially, it was a $12,000 grant, split into 12 individual $1,000 grants. These were given to faculty who were willing to adopt open-license textbooks.
Due to a large number of applications, the grant was increased to 32 individual $1,000 grants, Nicklaus said. She is very pleased with its success so far and plans to continue to work on it. During the course of one year, this open and affordable textbook program will save students $1.6 million, she said. NJPIRG is student run and funded, so it will always work for the good of the students, Nicklaus said. “We have all the incentive in the world to continue working for the students,” she said.
One of the most important things about NJPIRG is that it gives power to the students, Nicklaus said. It works for them and with them to solve problems that are affecting them. “A lot of people are frustrated and feel that they don’t have a voice,” she said. Niklaus said she joined NJPIRG because she wanted to represent the student body and the community at large and work for their greater good.
“We’re here for you,” Nicklaus said.