EDITORIAL: Cast your votes for NJPIRG referendum
Rutgers chapter needs campus support to continue its operations
It’s election season, but it’s not just nationwide or statewide — there’s an election happening on Rutgers' campuses.
Right now the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) is conducting a campus-wide referendum, asking students to vote on whether they want the organization’s $11.20 charge to remain on the term bill every semester.
Well, what’s $11.20 to a student? That amount of money could probably buy a Chipotle burrito bowl or two (not one) fat sandwiches every semester. It could buy eyeliner from the drugstore or a small book from Barnes and Noble. It could buy a one-way rail ticket to Newark Penn Station or three tall Starbucks drinks. Clearly, there’s an abundance of options (or duties like rent or bills) to put $11.20 towards, so why consider voting “yes” on the NJPIRG referendum and supporting this organization?
For those who don’t know, NJPIRG is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization founded in 1972, and its Rutgers chapter operates in New Brunswick. PIRG is “an independent, state-based, citizen-funded organization that advocates for the public interest and is a member of U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interests Groups,” according to the organization’s website. Its goal is to serve the public interest, and it actively focuses on improving student life and the general citizenry.
PIRG has four main priorities: Stopping the overuse of antibiotics, halting the flow of big money into politics, protecting consumers from illegal practices and investing in 21st century transportation. Some local initiatives Rutgers students have taken part of, and the campaigns seen on the ground include registering voters on campus, starting research initiatives on skyrocketing textbook costs, launching a campaign to bring open-source textbooks to Rutgers, trying to convince KFC to stop abusing its use of antibiotics on chickens, providing food and water to the homeless during their campaign to address homelessness and creating an initiative to save the bees. If you care about any of these issues, perhaps you might want to vote during NJPIRG’s referendum.
And if you don’t care about big money in politics, consumer protection, textbook costs, homelessness or the bee population, that’s completely fine and fair. NJPIRG is an advocacy group, and generally, people don’t want to put money into organizations they don’t agree with.
However, beyond advocacy, NJPIRG is preparing a group of student leaders. In the same way that the Targum prepares students for a professional career in journalism or how the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) grooms the next generation of politicians, NJPIRG trains the new set of community organizers, policy analysts, lawyers, etc. Its presence on campus engages the student body with today’s most pressing issues and helps students gain experience they can translate into future careers. Overall, its operations benefit students and the Rutgers community. Even if you disagree with some of NJPIRG’s areas of advocacy, it is a channel for fellow students to harness and apply their skill sets.
Money is also a decisive factor. For some, $11.20 is nothing but a speck in the trust fund, and they won’t even realize it’s gone. But for others, $11.20 goes a long way, and they’re not willing to give it up. The good thing about the NJPIRG referendum is that students can vote “yes” to keep the automatic charge on the term bill so NJPIRG can still continue its programs, but they can always ask for an individual refund.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day students are still annoyed by miscellaneous costs they incur in their term bill, especially when it funds organizations they might not have a direct relationship with — that’s the typical rationale of voting “no” or not voting at all. But just because you’re not part of it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t exist at all. NJPIRG is doing great work that should continue for years to come.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.