Souza: OSPIRG campaigns for local change

“Together we can make change happen,” reads OSPIRG’s slogan. No truer words could be said about this inspirational and hardworking organization.

OSPIRG (short for Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group) is a completely student run organization. It devotes itself to social change through researching issues and advocating for solutions. It was originally created by UO students in 1971 and has now expanded to chapters at Lane Community College and Southern Oregon University. The organization also partners with similar groups from across the United States to create nationwide change.

But what makes OSPIRG different from other nonprofit advocacy groups?

“OSPIRG is a legitimate organization in the sense that it has a large budget that allows us to hire staff that will then work with the students to help shape their campaign,” says Casey Scofield, the UO Chapter Chair and head coordinator of the Protect Antibiotics campaign. “These staff members are also located in places such as Salem and Portland, allowing strong networks for change.”

According to Jacob Wyant, the UO chapter campus organizer, the organization has a budget of approximately $120,000. This allows OSPIRG to handle campaigns in a professional way that catches the attention of legislators.

OSPIRG has deep roots and connections both statewide and nationwide. This organization is for students that want to make a difference at both the school and state level. It is clear that it is an organization for students that want to see real change from their hard work.

For instance, Scofield explains that OSPIRG has recently had great success with their renewable energy campaign. Volunteers and interns were able to gain major support for their cause among Oregon communities. Moreover, they were able to take the campaign to legislators and ended up busing about 30 students to Salem to advocate for an anti-coal bill that was passed. Partly due to the work done by OSPIRG, Oregon pledges to be off of coal by 2030 and be fully utilizing renewable energy by 2040.

OSPIRG currently has six campaigns running, many of which are fighting to get bills through the legislation. The issues the organizations are focusing on for this term are: restricting the use of antibiotics by meat farms, renewable energy, cheaper/free textbooks, save the bees and hunger and homelessness. More information on each of these campaigns can be found on the UO OSPIRG webpage.

OSPIRG not only provides amazing campaigns to work in but the organization also provides different ways of getting involved. For those with a busy schedule, OSPIRG has many events in which volunteers are needed. You, the student, can attend meetings for more information and simply volunteer when you have time.

However, if you want a position that requires more responsibility, consider applying for an internship. This position requires you to coordinate specific components of a designated campaign.

If you are interested in becoming involved with OSPIRG, there are informational meetings this Monday and Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Pacific Hall, room 123. Also, OSPIRG has their Kickoff Meeting this Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Straub Hall, room 145.

You don’t need to have a long list of experience to become an intern for OSPIRG. “The great thing about OSPIRG is we take in anyone who wants to get involved and we give them the skills and experience that can then be put on a resume and into future careers,” Scofield explains.

The skills that can be gained from participating with OSPIRG ranges from leadership to planning events to public speaking, and this organization will provide a learning curve that can apply to any occupation.

Not only do volunteers and interns gain valuable skills, but OSPIRG also provides opportunities that the classroom never could. Examples given by Scofield include meeting high positioned government officials, communicating to the community and participating in important social change.

2016 seems to have filled the atmosphere with gloom and despair about the prospects of politics. Many people have gotten lost in the confusion about those in the White House causing local communities to have become forgotten. Social issues still exist that concern our fellow community members at the UO — and beyond — that need our attention. The students of OSPIRG are committed to bettering the community for all, one campaign at a time.