Article summary: Go to the Office of Student Life in SRB, and DEPLEDGE CalPIRG.

Toward the middle of my first year here, a friend of mine asked me to sign up for CalPIRG. “It’s $5 a quarter, and the money will go to ‘good’ causes,” he said. I wish I could say my intentions were humanitarian, but nah — I just didn’t want to say no to my friend. That’s how I got into this mess.

I’m much poorer than the average student at this university, and this year, feeling the financial pressures more than ever, I began pinching pennies. One of the things that came to mind was CalPIRG. So I went to their office in the UCen, and said I wanted to depledge. “No Problem, fill this thing out, and we’ll take your name off,” they said. I filled out the form and turned it in. Simple enough, or so I thought.

Catch: CalPIRG charged me anyway. Have you ever had this experience with your phone company — they charge you a whole bunch of extra money, hoping you won’t notice, and if you do notice and call them, they play the dumb card, apologize, and promise to take the charge off immediately? I just can’t help noticing the similarities between what CalPIRG did, and the phone company’s antics.

It’s not about the money, believe me. OK, I take that back. It IS about the money, but it was a lot more about the fact that I went in, specifically asked to be taken off the list, and they billed me anyway.

So, I continued my journey, went to the Office of Student Life, and asked to talk to the dean. She wasn’t there, so her assistant came out, and this is how the conversation went:

Her: What is the issue?

Me: CalPIRG.

Her: OK, let me guess, you asked to be taken off the list, and they billed you anyway.

Me: So, I take it I’m not the first one to come in.

Her: Oh no, they have been very negligent about this stuff.

Of course they have. It pays to be negligent in a situation like this, doesn’t it?

Next thing you know, I get an e-mail from CalPIRG, saying they’ll do everything in their power to get the charge off my BARC. Shockingly enough, this has yet to actually happen.

Can public pressure be significant in shaping public policy? Yes. No one can deny that. However, the public pressure needs to be very strong in order for it to work. Organizations like CalPIRG are far too weak to withstand any pressure from the right.

CalPIRG might make us feel that we are giving money away to a good cause, but at some point you need to wake up and look at reality. There are much better ways to waste money than giving it to ineffective organizations like CalPIRG, who talk, but can never deliver.

If you are a freshman, I assure you that at some point during your college career someone will walk up to you saying “Help us stop student fees from going up, help us make textbooks cheaper, help us make the world a better place…” Don’t buy it.  

The bottom line: If you have already pledged CalPIRG, go to the Office of Student Life in SRB, and depledge; if you haven’t pledged, good for you.