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The Carletonian

Why MPIRG? Why now?

<ents, we spend a lot of time learning about the problems facing our world, our country, our state, and our community. Climate change. Unequal access to educational opportunities. A health care system that denies treatment to those who need it.

There are several ways that we can work to solve these problems, but we’re missing a key part of the solution if we fail to engage in politics — not only on Election Day, but all year long.

Only our government has the power to allocate trillions of dollars in annual spending. Only our government has the power to determine what is legal and what is illegal; to reward responsible behavior and punish those who abuse the system.

As students, we are rarely given the opportunity to make a difference in politics. College students are too often ignored by policymakers and marginalized by the media.

In 1971, a group of Carleton students set out to change that. Together with students at other colleges across the state, they created MPIRG, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.

MPIRG gives students the tools we need to make a real difference in our political system. It connects us to a statewide network of students who work together with us to build the political pressure we need to get laws passed. MPIRG gives us a voice at the State Capitol, and MPIRG staff work with us on campus to help us organize campaigns around the issues we choose.

Given what is happening today in state and national politics, it is more important than ever for students to have a voice. There is a movement afoot, in this state and across the country, to eliminate key social programs that make a real difference in people’s lives.  This movement is determined to lift regulations that protect our air, water, and natural resources.  This movement is committed to reducing the power of the average citizen, whether by attacking organized labor or attacking our fundamental rights, like voting.
As students, we can sit on the sidelines and hope that someone else will fix things, or we can recognize that creating a better world is our responsibility.

This year, MPIRG students at Carleton and across the state have petitioned our U.S. Senators to protect the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions. MPIRG students have testified in the state legislature against a budget that makes devastating cuts to programs that support Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens. Right now, MPIRG students and staff are defending our most basic right — the right to vote — against proposed voter ID legislation that would make it practically impossible for Carleton students to cast a ballot in Minnesota.

At Carleton, anyone can join MPIRG and start working on the issues they care about.  Currently, we are working to pass an Organic Conversion Policy in Rice County that would provide financial support for farmers who switch from conventional to organic farming. This policy would be the first of its kind in the state, and if it passes, we will take a huge step towards creating a more sustainable food system in our community. MPIRG students are also working with the Northfield City Council to get recycling programs in more downtown businesses.

This year, we have organized events that educated hundreds of Carleton students about some of the most important issues facing our society, including human trafficking and sulfide mining. Our petition drives helped hundreds more Carleton students contact their legislators and make their voices heard on climate change regulations, voter ID laws, and more.

Now, we are asking for your help. It takes money to provide Carleton students with the resources we need to make our voices heard.

Over the past two years, we have been able to operate without funding from Carleton, thanks to the support we’ve received from the other MPIRG chapters. But we cannot continue to rely on their generosity forever.
And we know that with more resources, we can do so much more to bring the voices of Carleton students to the people in power. For more information about MPIRG and our vision for the future, please visit

We are working to get our funding back, and we are asking you to support MPIRG in the CSA elections next Tuesday through Thursday. It’s a $9 fee that no one has to pay if they don’t want to. And it is the most democratic funding process on campus: it’s the only fee that we all get to vote on.

Support a $9 fee that gives students the power to develop their skills as activists and leaders, to learn about some of the most pressing problems facing our society, and to make a real difference on the issues that matter.

-Ben Hellerstein is a third year student.

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