Nearly 30 per cent of Harvard and Radcliffe undergraduates signed the Eastern Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group's (MassPIRG: East) petition during four days of canvassing this week.
The petition endorses the addition of $2 to student term bills to support a professional PIRG staff which would aid students in researching and articulating issues of social concern. The $2 would be refunded to the student upon request during the third week of the semester.
Ralph Nader and his colleagues developed the concept of PIRG and helped organize the first PIRG in Oregon and Minnesota. Nader and his Washington group, however, have no direct financial or policy influence on PIRGs here or in other areas.
If the PIRG group in the Harvard-Radcliffe community receives the signatures of a substantial number of undergraduates, it will seek the approval of the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life, the Council of Deans, and the Faculty for the $2 charge. Final approval of the proposed term bill increase must come from the Corporation.
James A. Sharaf '59, attorney in the Office of the General Counsel, said that all student activities except athletics have traditionally received only voluntary support in order to "ensure the maximum independence of student organization."
Richard H. Robblee '74, member of the Harvard PIRG Steering Committee, said that he believes that the term bill-increase system is vital to the success of PIRG.
He said that student organizations which depend on voluntary contributions often suffer financial difficulties and cited Philips Brooks House as an example.
PIRG committees at 12 other colleges and graduate schools in the Boston area also circulated petitions this week. The majority of students at seven of these schools, including Harvard Law School, signed the petitions.
MassPIRG: East grew largely out of the organizational efforts of Susan Moran, student at Pine Manor Junior College. Moran attended a nation-wide PIRG conference in Washington under the direction of Donald Ross, lawyer with Ralph Nader's Public Interest Research Group, and combed Nader's files for public interest enthusiasts in the Boston area.
In the third week of November last year, she called the first regional meeting of PIRG organizers. MassPIRG: East now covers approximately 35 schools "east of Wellesley." If each of these institutions support PIRG, the Eastern Massachusetts Region would have a maximum of 240,000 student members, and an annual budget of $940,000.