UConn PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) was a student-funded and led activist organization established to empower, activate, inspire, and serve the interests of all UConn Storrs students. The roots of UConn PIRG date back to 1973, when the UConn Board of Trustees initially considered a student-led request to transfer student fee donations directly to ConnPIRG, the state-wide organization. When the state Attorney General’s office ruled at that time that UConn did not have the authority to directly fund ConnPIRG through student fees, the students established UConn PIRG as a Trustee Organization affiliated as a chapter of ConnPIRG through an act of the Board of Trustees in 1977.
UConn PIRG addressed social issues pertinent to civil, social, and economic human rights, equity, and accessibility in the local and global communities, including food and housing equity, voter rights, public health, higher education accessibility, and environmental justice. UConn PIRG projects included Husky Market, to meet needs for food insecure students, a clothing swap, and legislative advocacy.
In November 2020, the student leaders of UConnPIRG voted to end their affiliation with ConnPIRG and become an independent organization – UConn Praxis.
Similar to other Trustee Organizations, such as the Daily Campus, WHUS Radio and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), UConnPIRG was funded by a student fee from UConn Storrs undergraduates since 1977. The UConnPIRG fee was most recently $5 per semester and students had the choice to opt out of this particular charge. The fee had been suspended since the fall of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the spring 2022 semester, the University conducted a review of UConnPIRG and the newly-established UConn Praxis to determine if its November 2020 disassociation with ConnPIRG fundamentally changed the organization’s originally established status as a Trustee Organization. This review included a review of establishment documents and meetings with student leaders.
After this review, the University has determined that the Trustee Organization status cannot be transferred from UConnPIRG to UConn Praxis, based on the original act of the Board of Trustees that established UConnPIRG and the conditions that existed in it, namely its primary purpose of support of and affiliation with ConnPIRG.
“After a review of the pertinent documents and information, the university determined that UConnPIRG was established to provide stewardship for the university’s relationship with ConnPIRG,” says Joseph Briody, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs & Executive Director of Student Activities. “Once the student organization ceased its relationship with ConnPIRG, it no longer fulfilled its Board of Trustees-approved purpose. The recent disassociation of the student group with ConnPIRG fundamentally ended the purpose of this student trustee organization.”
Briody also notes that the actions and leadership of UConnPIRG’s student leaders was an impressive example of selfless leadership – undertaking the disassociation process knowing that it could result in the group’s loss of trustee-established status.
On April 13, 2022, the Student Life Committee of the Board of Trustees voted to seek non-binding input regarding this issue from the undergraduate student body at the Storrs campus through a survey, which was conducted.
The process for an organization to earn trustee-established status includes demonstrating a level of research and scope comparable to other fee funded organizations over a period of multiple years, as well as detailed steps regarding petitioning, holding a formal referendum, making recommendations to the University administration, and ultimately holding a vote by the Board of Trustees.
According to University guidelines, any remaining UConn PIRG assets are allocated to USG, who will work with the university to ensure they are used consistent with the mission that UConn PIRG had.