Despite what they’d have you believe, MASSPIRG is a politically motivated organization with clear partisan intentions. While some of their actions may seem nonpartisan, their core philosophy falls directly in line with progressive political policies. While any organization has the right to be partisan, MASSPIRG’s false disguise gives them special treatment from the university’s administration and allows them to continue to grow their organization.
Although I believe that MASSPIRG is partisan, I fully support their presence on our campus. However, I take issue with their special privileges, such as working closely with the Undergraduate Student Government and having a special waivable fee on the student tuition bills. Although some of MASSPIRG’s goals and actions are nonpartisan, the basic principles that the organization is based on are partisan by their very nature, and throughout this article, I intend to show why.
By no means am I the first person to suggest that MASSPIRG is a blatantly partisan organization. In 2019, Andrew J. Sciascia, an editor for the UMass Lowell Student Newspaper, The Connector, wrote an article titled, “Op-Ed: MassPIRG is a partisan scam, and we should vote to defund them.” In his article, he writes, “The PIRG model finds its roots in a 1971 book written by Ralph Nader and David K Ross entitled ‘Action for a Change: A Student’s Guide for Public Interest Organizing.’ ‘Action for a Change’ covers the creation of the nation’s first PIRGs in Minnesota and Oregon and serves as a manual for students who seek to aggressively organize on campus and canvass in support of radical—traditionally left-wing—environmental, business-related and social policies.” (1) Although MASSPIRG may claim to be nonpartisan, their progressive policies, such as green energy and increasing government spending to fix economic issues, fall directly in line with progressive political policies in this country.
MASSPIRG is a huge organization with support from across the state. In fact, MASSPIRG actually has an office in downtown Boston (2). Additionally, according to MASSPIRG’s own budget, they spend 75 percent on professional staff to help run the organization. An organization that has professional staff and an office in one of the most expensive real estate locations in the world does not need your $9 waivable fee. MASSPIRG has a strong presence on campus, and they have professional staff that teach students to aggressively recruit students on campus. Their organization should be welcomed on campus, but should be treated like any other partisan organization such as College Democrats and College Republicans.
On MASSPIRG’s own website, they claim that “MASSPIRG stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democracy.” (3) Ironically enough, although MASSPIRG claims to stand up to powerful interests, when a referendum question was posed to decrease their fee, rather than fight against it, they chose to attempt to remove the question completely from the ballot. So much for standing up to interests that threaten our right to fully participate in democracy. MASSPIRG is a huge organization with hundreds of students in support, and when posed with a referendum question to defund their organization, they got the support of several prominent current and former student leaders to sign a complaint asking for this question to be removed. Put simply, any attempt to have the student body not vote on this referendum question is undemocratic and is not in the best interests of the student body. Unfortunately, MASSPIRG has the support and backing of plenty of current and former student leaders, while the student body is left to foot their $9 waivable fee. It seems that in this situation, they are the powerful interests.