What is MaryPIRG?
MaryPIRG is a student-led, student-funded, non-partisan, advocacy group that has been working to make real change at UMD for over 45 years. We work on issues like preserving the environment, protecting public health, restoring our democracy, alleviating poverty, and making college more affordable. MaryPIRG combines student activism with the expertise of professional staff that train and work alongside students to educate the public, build grassroots support, and lobby decision makers to act.
What does MaryPIRG do?
We run campaigns on issues that are in the public interest. This can take a variety of forms, but usually involves advocates working directly with decision makers in Annapolis or Washington DC, along with students and organizers working in communities to build and demonstrate public support for our solutions. Through that, we get results. For example, we recently helped secure $5 million for the Open Textbook Grant programs that will save students an estimated $50 million in textbook costs. MaryPIRG Student Chapters and Student PIRG lobbying and organizing over the past several years was critical to the passage of this historic law.
How is MaryPIRG funded?
MaryPIRG is funded through a portion of the Student Activities Fee, allocated by the Student Government, which we use to hire professional staff to work with and on behalf of us to win our campaigns. Every two years we have a referendum question on the SGA ballot that asks the student body to reaffirm their support of our funding. This process ensures that we, the students, decide how best to spend our resources on issues that they care about, such as making college more affordable, registering students to vote, and protecting the environment.
Why does MaryPIRG hire staff?
The problems that MaryPIRG undertakes are large, statewide, even national in scope. Our goals are not simply for students to “make their voice heard” on these issues, but to win concrete reforms that improve people’s lives. In order to make real, substantial change, we need organization and resources. Staff are an important part of having an effective statewide organization. They bring expertise to student's ideas and continuity to long term student campaigns.
Why do you run a referendum? Why do you need so much money?
Students at UMD vote to fund MaryPIRG every two years as a way to reaffirm student support for the work that we do. The mandate from the student community that says that UMD students support MaryPIRG and the work we do, and as a community have decided we should have the resources to carry on this work on their behalf. This allows us to hire people to work on campus and off to work on these issues. We believe that students should have a right to fund organizations to make the world a better place – and when the decisions are being made in Annapolis and D.C., we need staff to be there and represent us. Because students are spending money on staff, the UMD SGA by-laws requires us to get approval to do so from the student body before they allocate us funds. Our budget is necessary to maintain a vibrant student group on campus as well as get real results with our on campus, state, and national campaigns.
What happens to all that money?
Our money is completely controlled by our student board. Historically we have used the money to hire the staff that makes most sense to win on our campaigns, be they lawyers or organizers. Most recently we’ve spent our money hiring an organizer to work with us full time on campus and to fund a portion of a state director or advocate’s salary to represent us in Annapolis and in D.C. If we had more money we could fund more staff to work in the state or in D.C.
How do you decide on your campaign?
Our student board meets at least twice a year to decide what our campaigns will be and which will be the priority. Our priority campaigns are the ones our local and state staff will spend their time on with us.
Why don’t you get your money somewhere else?
We’ll, it’s not really our money, it is student money. We think students should be able to pool and spend their money however they see fit. It’s really cool that students have decided to fund an organization to take on issues they care about, and as a group that represents students and the public interest it’s important that our money comes FROM them too.
But most students aren’t part of the board and this decision making process
All students are welcome to join our campaigns and run for office in our chapters to be on the board. We are open to all students, some choose to become part of the decision making process and some do not.