On Feb. 15, Eckerd’s Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) held their Spring kickoff to celebrate the end of their new member registration process. The event was to inform students about activism opportunities on campus and launch their campaigns for this semester.
This event had speakers including President Damián J. Fernández, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students James Annarelli, PIRG’s board that leads their different campaigns, ECOS President Ava McLeod and Gabe Watkins-Mocumbi from the Afro-American Society. The Spring Kickoff event was a celebration of the end of PIRG’s recruitment drive where they made class announcements, tabled outside of popular places like the pub and hired interns. This event was a chance for members of the Eckerd community to learn about the group's goals for the upcoming semester.
Eckerd’s PIRG chapter is a part of a national nonpartisan nonprofit that focuses on representing issues that are important to students. Being solely student funded, they have been able to hire professional staff like Isabel Muir who is the group’s campus organizer to help them create huge changes to campus like creating a food pantry at the pub and to get the administration to agree to move to using all renewables.
This upcoming semester PIRG plans to focus on their 100% Renewables Project, New Voters Project and Zero Hunger and Zero Waste campaigns. PIRG recently introduced the “Hunger Free Campus Act” to support campus food pantries and survey students in need to connect them with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into the Florida state legislature. They have also implemented the Break Free From Plastics pledge here on campus
Fernández used the stage to share some of the reasons he supports Eckerd’s PIRG. He also shared more information on the strategic plan that the administration is using to create changes to the campus.
“The work I’ve seen PIRG and your leadership do in the past two years is impressive. You are making a change for the better and you are getting skills that will serve you throughout your life,” Fernández said
Annarelli shared an admiration for PIRG during the event by sharing how activism has been rooted in Eckerd’s history. While PIRG is somewhat new to Eckerd’s campus, it still has a rich history of social activism.
“I pledge the support of the staff and student affairs in helping PIRG to realize its important goals, both on this campus and nationwide,” Annarelli said.
The Chapter Chair for PIRG, senior Carrie Walker, feels this event was important to the Eckerd community.
“As a grassroots organization we can't do anything of what we do without the support of tons and tons of students,” Walker said. “So we need people to show up to events like this to show their support and to find out about what it is we do so they can find out about how they can help.”
Senior Jane Downer, vice chair, believes that PIRG is important because it teaches students about activism and how to get involved in the community. Downer organized the speakers for the kickoff and played an active role in planning the event as a whole.
The Spring Kickoff event was a celebration of the end of PIRG’s recruitment drive where they made class announcements, tabled outside of popular places like the pub and hired interns. This event was a chance for members of the Eckerd community to learn about the group's goals for the upcoming semester.
Senior Morgan Colton is the Recruitment Drive Coordinator for PIRG and co-coordinator for the group’s New Voters Project. As the recruitment coordinator, Colton works to get people to come to events and get involved with the group.
“It is an amazing organization because it gives you an opportunity to take leadership and learn some hard skills that are very useful,” Colton said. “As I'm coming up on graduation, I have realized that the skills I've learned are very useful for what I want to do in the future.”