After a plethora of online events due to the COVID pandemic, the New York Public Interest Research Group’s (NYPIRG) Queens College Chapter is hosting an in-person Student Action Meeting event to help familiarize students with the chapter’s advocacy efforts and to recruit new members. While weekly meetings are still hybrid, the in-person event in the Student Union building was an excellent way to meet the current members of the chapter and learn about various NYPIRG campaigns.
The NYPIRG is a student-led not-profit with chapters in colleges and universities across New York State that advocates for critical human rights issues. Specific campaigns include protecting the environment, government accountability, access to higher education, and voting rights, and mass transit in New York City. The Queens College Chapter focuses specifically on issues occurring in the college and in the surrounding boroughs. Past efforts include hosting a table in the Dining Hall to inform students of a possible tuition hike and meeting with local government officials to advocate for a New Deal for CUNY.
NYPIRG Project Coordinators Hope Hendry and Cecilia Ellis recently facilitated small-group discussions regarding topics that directly affect the residents of New York City. In an RSVP Google Form, students chose what topics they wanted to discuss, such as voting rights, hunger and homelessness in New York City, and environmental protection. Each small group brainstormed actions and future events that would help raise awareness and money for their cause. “We have the goal of connecting students to an issue that they are passionate about, so that they can get involved with events and advocacy actions related to that campaign later on in the semester,” said Hendry.
For example, the group that discussed hunger and homelessness in New York City played a board game that shows the difficulties of residing in the city with low income and resources. A student intern also made a voting rights trivia wheel to help students learn facts about the issue. Further, the event hosted a menstrual products drive and provided QR codes with information to contact local politicians for various call-in drives.
Multiple posters regarding campaigns were plastered on the walls in an attempt to encourage students to take a more active role in their community, as well as in their own lives. One poster read “If fares were free, how would you spend the money? Where would you go? What would you do” with a large space for students to write their answers. Among the student answers were ice skating, a trip upstate, and going to the movies. Another poster read “What would a perfect QC/CUNY look like?” with answers including solar panels, more flowers, and more composting. A motivational third poster read “Our vote is our voice.”
The Knight News spoke to students who attended or volunteered at the event about its current goals. NYPIRG student intern Jennifer Gil responded, “I’m making sure that students are registered to vote. Right now, we’re trying to pass a bill that says if there’s more than 300 registered voters, they should be able to vote on campus.” NYPIRG student intern Toni Favia spoke about her role at the Chapter: “I am trying to raise awareness about food insecurity. Hopefully, we can get people involved with the soup kitchen— the Knights Table Food Pantry.”
Hendry informed The Knight News about the Spring Conference, another event that the Queens College Chapter has planned. The Spring Conference will occur virtually on Friday, March 11. Throughout the day, there will be various panel discussions and guest speakers related to NYPIRG’s campaigns. Any student interested in attending or volunteering with Queens College Chapter events should email Hope Hendry at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cecilia Ellis at email@example.com.