Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

MSA vote on PIRGIM chapter, Tuesday, 22 Feb.

18. February 2005 • Murph
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Students for PIRGIM has had a strong presence in the Daily the past several days, and is going before MSA on Tuesday evening to ask to be granted Chapter status (which would require money from MSA), so that they can take on more ambitious projects. I asked PIRGIM members Audrey Vesota and Pam Baker to explain what this process means:

Students for PIRGIM and many other active members of the campus community are hoping to re-establish a proud tradition of student activism by bringing a full-fledged PIRGIM chapter to the U-M campus. If our student group becomes a chapter, we would be able to work with professional staff and link up with a strong national network of more than 80 Student PIRG groups across the nation. This would allow us to work much more effectively on the issues that matter to students: issues such as tenants’ rights, textbook affordability, higher education funding, voting rights, and environmental public health. We are a non-partisan organization that works on issues that affect a broad public and student interest.

In order to make a real impact on these issues, we will need the resources to pair students’ energy and activism with professional experience and expertise. This model has worked successfully for U-M in the past, and continues to thrive at campuses across the country. In addition to making a real positive impact on the issues that affect students, a PIRGIM chapter would teach students the hands-on skills of civic engagement, from meeting with legislators to holding a press conference. We would also establishment an internship program in the model of Project Community (Soc. 389) that would give busy students faculty guidance and an opportunity to earn academic credit for intensive organizing work.

That’s why we are requesting that the Michigan Student Assembly allocate one-third of the neccessary funds to our group to establish a pilot chapter for one year. (The national PIRGs will chip in the remaining two-thirds of the funding for the first year.) We are asking for any and all students, community members, or organizations that are supportive of our project to demonstrate that support by signing onto an endorsement letter and/or coming to the MSA meeting on Tuesday, February 22nd at 7:30, in the 3rd floor of the Union. We will provide PIRGIM buttons as physical marker of support. Let’s show MSA that working for the public interest and student rights is in everyone’s best interest.

Questions: Please contact,
Carolyn Hwang cchwang@umich.edu 732-644-8834
Rese Fox britfox@umich.edu 734-576-3540
Pam Baker pamrbak@umich.edu 734-646-3135

The proposal before MSA can be read at PIRGIM’s website.

Some of the recent press on the group’s activities:
> Ann Arbor News, 3 February: College text costs are out of line, report shows
> Michigan Daily, 8 February: PIRGIM looks for ways to lower textbook prices
> Michigan Daily, 14 February: Rebuttal from a textbook publisher
> Michigan Daily, 14 February: The Daily’s endorsement
> Michigan Daily, 15 February: letter of support from Washtenaw County Commissioner Jeff Irwin

Somewhat deeper googling will show articles on the group’s activities this past fall with Voice Your Vote, campaigning in favor of the Ann Arbor greenbelt initiative a year ago, and supporting Accessory Dwelling Units in Ann Arbor (a position which wins them mention from The Goodspeed Update as part of “a critical mass of progressive voices in the city which could breathe new life into city politics”).



  1. I lived with a guy who worked at PIRGIM as one of his first jobs. He lasted about a day, going door to door soliciting donations. He didn’t get enough, so he didn’t get paid (except in Coors Light, that they drank out of a cooler hidden in the woods).
    He recommends against it…
       —js    Feb. 18 '05 - 04:22PM    #
  2. Yeah, I’ve talked to people who have done canvassing for the state PIRGs before and found it silly and unrewarding. I have a hard time reconciling that with what I’ve seen of this group.

    Though I suppose, if this group gets Chapter status, meaning that they’ll be getting money from the state PIRGs, that they’ll be one of the things that the money from the canvassing goes to?
       —Murph    Feb. 18 '05 - 09:12PM    #
  3. Thats not quite right,

    Money from canvassing will not be mixing with student PIRGIM money. Student and Citizen PIRGs are independent organizations that work together to promote a public interest agenda.

    Canvassing is not for everyone. Speaking as someone who has both worked as a canvasser and directed canvass offices, I can attest that canvassing is both rewarding and important work.

    No one would ever “not get paid,” for a days work, that being clearly illegal. The first day someone spends in the office is an observation day, where they recieve training and go out with an experienced canvasser to learn the ropes and try it themselves. After the observation day, unless it becomes very obvious that they would not be succesful as a canvasser or they decide that they do not want to be a canvasser, they will be hired and start the next day.

    Regardless, this is quite besides the point. Again, the canvass office is independent from the student chapter, which Audrey and Pam described quite well.
       —Abe    Feb. 19 '05 - 01:07PM    #
  4. I worked for Pirgim for 3 weeks. I recieved half of what I collected as donations. One day, in tornado type weather I collected 30 dollars. Ergo, my pay for the 6 hours of canvassing was 15 dollars. I think that is what the gentelmen above is refering to, when he means do not get paid. I agree, it is not worth it.
       —Nicole    Jan. 27 '06 - 05:07PM    #