Burned Out By the PIRG

PIRG Training

They don’t do no messin’ around at the StudentPIRGs.  Not long after I accepted the job, they flew me out to one of the central offices to begin training.  I was hired at an irregular time – most campus organizers were hired to train during the summer and hit the ground running for the fall semester. The group I trained with kind of just came right into it.

I am going to say that the training was definitely useful.  The reason PIRG still exists is because their model of organizing can definitely be effective.  I learned a lot from the campaign planning portion of the training – how to put it on paper and make it clear and concise for the people you are organizing.

What was frustrating about the training (and ultimately, throughout my experience at the college campus) was the insistence on scripted “raps” you were expected to use when you are trying to draw people into the student chapter at a tabling event.  Even though the PIRG was placing us at a number of very unique college campuses, both urban and rural, it was almost frowned upon when I tried to tailor the rap to my college campus.  If I added an example of something on my college campus, I’d get a “well, let’s just stick to what’s there” kind of response.  But wait – shouldn’t we be trying to draw in people to our cause with examples they can relate to and understand?

What I’m saying is – the way the campus organizer model is set-up is to encourage one to follow everything by the book.  In a way,  PIRG trains entry-level organizers as if they’ve never had an ounce of activist or public speaking experience – and yet, the candidates they seek for these entry level positions are expected to have those skills.  So basically it’s their way or the highway.

I think the funniest part of training was when they had everyone read excerpts from Saul Alinsky and Cesar Chavez.  It was almost as if they included that just to give us the feeling that we were a part of something radical and refreshing.  But really, I think Alinsky and Chavez would have groaned at the sight of an entry level PIRG organizer.  So many of the skills that we were expected to bring to the college campus were full of contradictions that did more harm than good to the community.