This spring semester, our NJPIRG Students Chapter launched with the hopes of talking to thousands of our peers and making tangible change in our community. We’ve been able to make such significant progress on our work, and are so excited to go into the fall semester continuing to fight hunger in our communities and saving the bees in our home cities. Before we get to what’s coming, we want to highlight what we’ve been able to do this Spring.
We start every semester with a Recruitment Drive. Through dozens of class announcements, hosting fun tabling events, and phone banking, we were able to reach thousands of Rutgers Camden students, and collected hundreds of interest cards from folks who wanted to get involved with our work. From there, we officially kicked off our campaigns.
Save the Bees
Bees are essential to our lives. They pollinate 75% of all of the foods we eat, and their pollination helps protect outdoor spaces we love, but we lost 51% of our bee colonies in 2021 due to multiple factors such as climate change, habitat loss, and pesticide use. That’s why in the fall semester we started a campaign to get the Mayor of Camden to declare the city a Bee Friendly City, per the Bee USA Standards.
To broaden our efforts and to allow students to make an impactful change closer to their homes, we collected petitions not only for the city of Camden, but for other students’ home cities as well. Collectively, we set a goal of 300 petitions and ended up collecting 397, 111 of those petitions being designated to the city of Camden alone! We delivered these petitions to the city halls of the three cities that the most petitions were signed for: Camden, Cherry Hill, and Pennsauken.
Hunger and Homelessness
This semester, Rutgers – Camden students focused on giving what they could to local nonprofits to facilitate their volunteer efforts to fight hunger. Every Friday starting in March and continuing to the end of the spring semester, students hosted Art Parties to make centerpieces and placemats for the dinner services for Cathedral Kitchen. The centerpieces were toilet paper rolls wrapped in construction paper so that dining service attendees could take them home. The students did an excellent job at making them creative and colorful!
Rutgers professors across all three campuses have taken strides to make textbooks affordable by partaking in the Open and Affordable Textbooks (OAT) Program. OAT is an incentive program that awards research funds to Rutgers faculty who make their courses more affordable for their students by using low-cost materials, library content, or Open Educational Resources (OERs). To date, the program has saved Rutgers students an estimated $6.25 million. The goal of the program is to support course material affordability at Rutgers, promote the use of open and affordable educational resources, and empower faculty to innovate their teaching through the use of open, free, or library-licensed materials and teaching aids.
This semester, we sought to recognize the professors who make a difference in their class affordability and the librarians who make that possible by filming them for our OER “OERscars” video event, in which we gave faculty an Oscar statue and recorded these faculty and librarians speaking about what OERs and textbook affordability mean to them. We were delighted to award Professor Tracie Paulson an OERscar for her efforts in making her classes more affordable by providing no-cost materials to her students.
Now that we’ve secured our funding for the next three years, we’ll be diving right back into our campaign work. For the fall, our Chapter has voted to continue running our campaign to Save the Bees. Building on the hundreds of petitions we have from community members, we’ll be working to continue building support for Camden to become a Bee Friendly City. We’ll also be working to recruit and train more student leaders to build up our chapter!
A Thank You
All of this work is completely thanks to our team of students who dedicate so much of their time to making a difference. All of our work is so dependent on our community, and we could not have done the work we did without the entire Rutgers Community. From the professors who let us do class announcements, to the administrations who helped send out campus wide emails, to the staff who helped us reserve rooms, and of course the students who came to our tables and engaged with us, we are so appreciative of everyone’s support.
We are looking forward to a Fall semester filled with fun campaign events, but above all, we can’t wait to continue making New Jersey and Rutgers a place where students can organize, and win.
Want to get involved? Apply for a fall internship with us now!