GILLIAN REINHARD ’20
The Trinity College chapter of Connecticut Private Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG) was well known last semester for its extensive voter registration campaign. Members of the group could be found advertising the importance of taking part in the November elections as well as helping Trinity students register to vote. With election season over, ConnPIRG has set its sights on a new agenda.
ConnPIRG takes a unique place in the long list of clubs available to Trinity students. The national organization, Public Interest Research Group, was formed forty-six years ago and serves as a federation of non-profit organizations that promote political advocacy and change. Typically, ConnPIRG begins each semester with a focus on a main campaign, but because of its large membership base, also focuses on background campaigns. This semester the organization has shifted its attention towards combatting environmental change, but has also taken on other campaigns.
“We (ConnPIRG) chose 100% renewable energy as our leading campaign because the new (presidential) administration and recent events make it a very salient topic,” explained president of ConnPIRG, Trinna Larsen ’20. “It also is something that is very easy to agree on as it makes both environmental and economic sense at this point. Our goal right now is just to get a commitment and that will lead to initiatives we can pursue to actually make tangible change and begin reducing our carbon emissions.” Other issues at the forefront of ConnPIRG’s attention includes making college more affordable, addressing hunger and homelessness, getting big money out of politics and preventing the extinction of bees.
These goals were addressed at ConnPIRG’s kickoff meeting held Wednesday February 8th in the Washington Room of Mather. As the environment has taken precedence in ConnPIRG’s agenda, the meeting largely focused on how students at Trinity can make a difference towards a more sustainable future on campus and in the world. The meeting featured a presentation from Dr. Amber L. Pitt, a conservation ecologist at Trinity. Pitt provided an in-depth look at climate change across the world, with an emphasis on dramatically increasing CO2 levels and the rapid extinction of animal and plant life. In addition, Pitt focused on the direct effect climate change will have on Connecticut in particular. Her urgent words inspired all members of ConnPIRG to take action and brainstorm how to make Trinity and, more broadly, Hartford, environmentally friendly.
The meeting also featured a presentation from Kate Cohen, the state director of
ConnPIRG. Cohen outlined the goals of ConnPIRG and explained that the organization is devoted to creating policy-driven change. Because of this, ConnPIRG is able to address a diverse range of issues while working alongside other organizations. For example, ConnPIRG, with its specific focus on politics, is able to work on environmental issues without taking the place of other Trinity clubs such as Green Campus. Cohen also noticed the ability for cooperation within ConnPIRG, because although the club is political, the issues addressed by ConnPIRG are inherently bipartisan.
In addition to a presentation of renewable energy, two background campaigns of ConnPIRG were introduced at its kickoff meeting. The save the bees campaign, spearheaded by Sarah Kennedy ’20 covered the mass extinction of bees at an alarming rate. Kennedy hopes that the campaign will raise awareness about both the importance of bees as pollinators and their status as an endangered species. As attention is gained, Kennedy aims to take action to prevent the extinction of bees and register Trinity College with Bee Campus USA. “ConnPIRG has a track record of legislative achievements and it feels really good to work for an organization that is capable of influencing government at every level,” commented Kennedy.
The hunger and homelessness campaign was also introduced at ConnPIRG’s first meeting of the semester, chaired by Larisa Bogomolov ’20. Like Kennedy, Bogomolov hopes to first increase awareness of hunger and homelessness in the United States and then take the necessary steps to combat it. “These are problems that are addressed by many colleges,” explained Bogmolov during the meeting, “However, at Trinity, we see these problems right outside of our campus in Hartford. We have the unique opportunity to become directly involved with these issues.”
Larsen continued with her optimism for the club and the changes it hopes to make. “It’s a super exciting campaign and definitely in its beginning stages!” As ConnPIRG embarks on its new set of goals, there is no doubt that the group will continue to raise awareness and get students involved in political issues during the 2016-2017 school year.
GILLIAN REINHARD ’20