Students can help the UCSB chapter of California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG) work to lower textbook costs, clean up the environment and support student activism by pledging to the organization this week.

CalPIRG’s pledge drive began Tuesday and will continue through Thursday. Volunteers from the group will table in front of the UCen and the Arbor asking students to pledge $5 each quarter to the statewide organization. After pledging, students receive memberships to CalPIRG, which is valid for the duration of their time at UCSB. Between 2,000 and 3,000 students at UCSB – and nearly 30,000 students statewide – have already made a pledge to the organization, said Aliya Haq, a visiting CalPIRG campus organizer from UCLA. About 800 more pledges are needed this year to meet the quota at UCSB, she said.

Founded in the 1970s, CalPIRG campaigns on a local, statewide and national level to protect the public, Haq said. She said CalPIRG plans to continue their campaigns to lower textbook prices, solve local homeless and hunger problems, defend the environment as well as find new core problems on campus. CalPIRG members will also perform community services such as habitat restoration and beach cleanups. Most recently the organization collaborated with Associated Students in the voter registration drive, Haq said.

The issues which CalPIRG decides to focus on comes directly from the students, she said.

“We choose issues that 80 percent of the students choose,” Haq said.

She said one of CalPIRG’s biggest accomplishments was helping to lower the price of college textbooks. The group published a research report in January 2004 on the cost of textbooks. Haq said through the research, CalPIRG found that textbook publishing companies increase the price of textbooks by introducing new editions of the same product every year.

Thomson Learning, a textbook publishing company, was a specific target of the CalPIRG campaign, Haq said. The company lowered the price of the Introduction to Calculus book, by James Stewart, by 25 percent after the news media reported on the findings of the CalPIRG research report, she said. Other publishing companies followed this example, she said.

“We literally saw book prices began to drop,” Haq said.

Stephanie Mancini, a University of Oregon graduate and the new organizer of the UCSB chapter of CalPIRG, said she believes in the merits of the organization.

“A lot of students like to [talk about], but never [actually] advocate change,” she said. “That’s my main drive to get students involved in public policy and environmental issues.”

Mancini said recruiting more students on campus and building a strong student coalition will be her main goals this year.

April Calbarro, a freshman art history major, said she joined CalPIRG to make a difference.

“We are doing a lot of great services for the community, so I think it’s important for us to stay,” she said.