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Maryland PIRG Students
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The Writers Bloc
By
Connor Bell

The Maryland Public Research Group, MaryPIRG, discussed six big issues to fix in society throughout this semester during its spring kickoff meeting in Stamp on Feb. 13

MaryPIRG is a student-run, state-wide program in Maryland working to solve certain issues in society with a team of student leaders using different resources.

President Sara Carter started off the meeting by giving a brief introduction of what the organization is about and reminded everyone MaryPIRG is about helping people, not politics.

“We do not affiliate with or support a specific political party or candidate but instead we reach across party lines to empower students of all ideologies,” Carter said.

MaryPIRG member Cassidy Chassagne leads the fight on big money in politics with her own democracy campaign. Within the campaign, Chassagne said she hopes to keep the political process free from corruption and the involvement of large companies.

“The overall goal of the democracy campaign is to eventually overturn the citizens united court case with an amendment,” Chassagne said.

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, “opened the floodgates for big money in our elections, enabling a small number of mega-donors to drown out the voices of average Americans. In the 2012 election the top 32 donors to Super PACs, giving an average of $9.9 million each, contributed as much as every small donor to Obama and Romney combined,” according to the MaryPIRG website.

The next issue the group tackled was the overuse of antibiotics on animals. According to member Ajoe Ofosu-Ameya, the antibiotics we test on animals are not only harmful to animals but can actually hurt our health as humans as well. “Factory farms are overusing antibiotics, 70 percent of the antibiotics we use as humans are being used in animals,” Ofosu-Ameya said. “And when we come in contact with that and we get sick, we don’t have the right antibiotics to cure us because of antibiotic resistant bacteria.”

MaryPIRG will be collecting petitions on campus for the bill on this issue that is currently sitting in Congress.

Not forgetting those around them, the group continued to tackle the issue of homelessness and hunger. According to MaryPIRG member Celeste Corona, homelessness affects 48 million people in the United States and she wants Maryland students to do something about it.

“We are allowing students to petition SGA, and we are working with various coalitions to make a difference,” Corona said. “We will be going to shelters and areas where we can help out our community.”

MaryPIRG also wants to better things inside campus itself.  According MaryPIRG member Andrew Karbeling, 80 percent of the world’s textbooks are dominated by four publishing companies who push the cost of these books through the roof.

“Our campaign advocates for the institutional support of open source textbooks,” Karbeling said. “Open source textbooks are online textbooks written by professors and experts and are free to access fully on the internet.”

Karbeling said his group is working with people toward a grant that would write and support the concept of open source textbooks and there is also a recently proposed bill in the Maryland Senate that would provide $100,000 for the grant.

Bringing it back to big government issues, the group addressed how local corporations in Maryland officials are getting out of paying less taxes than they should by moving across state lines. Andrew Richard is in charge of this group and explained the plan of attack to combat this issue: “We’re focusing on education awareness this semester by focusing on local businesses, students and the media to try and teach people what are these loopholes and how combined reporting is an actual thing we can use.”

But according to Carter, the biggest issue on MaryPIRG’s agenda is the state of fracking in Maryland.

Devorah Stavisky heads the MaryPIRG effort to ban fracking in Maryland with the previous fracking ban bill set to expire in October this year.

“The reason it is really important Maryland addresses fracking is because all of the public health effects that fracking brings with it,” Stavisky said. “It uses tons of water, and there is a really high risk that that contaminated water could reach our drinking water.”

Stavisky said the group’s main goal is to pressure Gov. Larry Hogan through petitions to make Maryland a state that invests in clean energy rather than fracking.

After this event, the six groups in charge of tackling these issues will meet more individually in their own throughout the semester and less as the whole MaryPIRG organization.