CalPIRG Outreach Annoys Otherwise Supportive Student
by Cheyenne Gustason


I’ve done it. I’ve given in. I’ve succumbed. My friends, well most of them, have also done it already. I think I was one of the last holding out. It was mostly lack of opportunity, though, and when opportunity came to find me about a week ago, sure enough I offered no resistance. Actually, there’s a pretty good chance you have done it, too. So I wonder – have you pledged to CalPIRG (the California Public Interest Research Group)?
Probably. Why? Well, it seems like a pretty good cause, but I’ll get to that in a second. I’m more concerned with the “how” you came to sign your pledge. I’ll make a sweeping generalization and say some bright-eyed peer with a clipboard, marked by a collection of neon orange stickers and a hungry look approached you and asked you to pledge to CalPIRG. You might have replied “no, but I will, it’s a great cause” or “why yes, I have already done it” (and proudly pointed to the Cheeto-colored badge glaring on your breast) or “what does that even mean?” I, until recently, was this last one.
In one day last week I was approached three times. If the Arbor were the Amazon, then CalPIRG representatives are the piranhas and I am an oblivious capybara. The first two times I hedged the query with “I’m late for something.” You see, I’m very clever. Not so clever, however, when I hurried shamefully past one of the inquisitors to whom I’d given this line less than 10 minutes later after the “something,” which had consisted of checking my unsurprisingly empty mailbox at the UCen.
Later that day I was genuinely headed somewhere on a tight schedule when once again I was ambushed. “Excuse me, have you pledged to CalPIRG?” a sincere-looking young man asked, singling me out as his next vic-, er, subject. “Oh no, but I have to be somewhere” came my sweet reply, in the higher pitched voice I subconsciously reserve for polite interactions. “It’s OK, I’ll walk with you,” he said, terribly excited. At least that made one of us.
He proceeded to explain CalPIRG to me. He told me how it was an organization that stood as an advocate for me and my fellow students. He said it had helped pass the high speed rail bill, as well as several other key causes I definitely supported. That all sounded great to me, and he had been very nice, so just outside the doors of my destination, I signed my name. It was after all, as he put it, the cost of one Jamba Juice a quarter, which I am sure my parents can manage.
The problem though, is that I almost didn’t sign. I wanted to protest the continued pledge attacks that had been launched at me all day and not sign purely on the principle of annoyance. That day was not even the first I had been asked to pledge by CalPIRG representatives, but it certainly set the record for the most. I felt overwhelmed, dodging the kids with the orange sticker rolls in the Arbor throughout my day. Many of you have probably had a similar experience, or several. I’m really very okay, even happy, about supporting CalPIRG. It’s just that I don’t support how aggressive their tactics are. I understand that they need pledges and that they need to get the word out, and that they maybe even need to bombard one person three times in the span of a couple hours. But they do overwhelm you. The guy I eventually signed for seemed really nice, and part of me signed just because I wanted him to be happy. But when you try to brush someone off, ideally they do not proceed to latch onto and follow you. CalPIRG may need these tactics to get the pledges it takes to support them, but I still feel passionately opposed to the aggression and ubiquity of their quest. Their methods ring heartily of those hated tele-marketers, which is a real shame, because as far as I can tell I would much rather give money to CalPIRG than those ridiculous car insurance calls everyone seems to be getting lately. I was turned off by the method, not the cause, and judging by my friends’ similar tales, they were too. Some I know signed merely and solely to placate the CalPIRG representative who had cornered them and still have no idea what exactly CalPIRG does. Is that the desired pledger they want? One who does not believe in the cause, only the ideal of an unmolested walk across campus?
As I walked home that night last week, through the Arbor one last time, a girl with the tell-tale roll of stickers zeroed in on me. I was ready. Before she could open her mouth, I pointed to the sticker and said, “Already did!” with a broad, and truly genuine, smile. I’m glad I am supporting a good cause. Honestly, though, if I were CalPIRG, I would try less to overwhelm people, and more to actually educate and persuade them. But maybe that’s just me.