While this school year has been unlike any other, we are so proud of the work we were able to accomplish this year with IllinoisPIRG Campus Action.
When remote learning and online classes have kept us apart physically, we were still able to accomplish a lot across the state to tackle climate change, alleviate hunger in our local communities, make college more affordable for students, help thousands of first time voters participate in the election.
While this school year comes to a close, we are excited to continue our work as we build towards a better future for Illinois, led by students. Here are some campaign highlights from the year.
Progress for Break Free from Plastics
Pollution is one of the greatest threats to our society due to our systematic reliance on single-use plastics. Illinois is seriously behind on policy against single-use plastics, but there is hope on the horizon! Not only is IL PIRG working to implement a statewide Polystyrene ban this upcoming semester, but local youth organizing for policy at the campus and state level is showing even more promise!
Our highlights include getting over 1,000 students to sign our petition for plastic bans on campus, meeting with campus administration and professors to ask for their support, and hosting several educational and clean-up events to promote the campaign!
While continuing to advocate for on-campus change, we hope to also have students work towards passing policy on the Polystyrene ban this Spring.
Wins for Textbook Affordability
Our Affordable textbooks team looked to tackle the high cost of textbooks by working with librarians and staff at our institutions to implement more Open Educational Resources (OER).
At the University of Illinois in Springfield, by working with the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), we proposed a student government resolution for a campus commitment to keep textbook prices low. With our small team only working remotely, we were also able to get over 100 signatures on our online petition, as well as 4 staff members to sign our faculty support statement!
Lastly, we are working on getting textbook affordability to be a priority for Illinois legislators. As Illinois Congressmen are proposing a bill to research the cost-saving methods of public institutions, we are working towards getting student involvement in the task force set to be established by the bill. And by working with organizations such as the Illinois Library Association (ILA) and the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI), we hope to bring OER supporters together to save students money and preserve the notation that knowledge is accessible to everyone.
COVID-19 has affected our society in so many ways, especially our economic security to put meals on our plates or roofs over our heads. Our Hunger and Homelessness campaign sought to fundraise for organizations providing to those in need, as well as work to educate our communities about hunger and housing insecurity on campus.
We worked with several other groups across our campuses, including The Food Recovery Network, Wesley Pantry, Lakeview Pantry, and A Just Harvest, to promote canned food drives and encourage our communities to help where they were able. We hosted some virtual events and social media blitz with campus food pantries during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, to educate students on the problems and talk about real solutions. In total we helped educate hundreds of students.
Historic Youth Turnout
Our focus this semester has been to reflect on the success of the 2020 elections for youth turnout and advocate for policies that will continue to make voting easier for students, from pre-registration to getting more polls on campus during elections. According to the NSLVE Report published by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University, Loyola University in Chicago had a 72.9% Voting Rate in 2020, up 15.9% from 2016. University of Illinois at Springfield had 67.5%, up 6.5%, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had 66%, up 13.1%!
Our biggest efforts revolved around National Voter Registration Day in Urbana-Champaign, and Springfield. Our student leaders held events with other groups on their campuses to educate, register students to vote, and gather pledged to vote in the upcoming election. Research on our work shows that over 80 percent of the students we registered or contacted turned out to vote! This result and everything else we have done this semester goes to show the power students have to create real change in our communities, right now.
With so much success this semester, we are excited about the opportunity to continue to organize and solve problems in the fall and beyond. We will run these same campaigns by and large, but substituting the 100% Renewable Energy campaign for local campus plastics bans where appropriate.
We are so proud to see the success from our program, and grateful for what other organizations, student groups, and offices/faculty on campus are doing to support student activism and engagement! There is a lot we want to solve together and we look forward to a continued and growing partnership to these efforts and beyond!