Interviewer: Dai Hewison, CKXU 88.3 FM Community Content Curator
Interviewee: Sydney Chertoff, LPIRG Executive Director
Transcribed by Genna Bourchier
Dai Hewison (DH): Joining us now is Sydney from Lethbridge Interest Public Research Group. It’s a mouthful, or LPRIG for short, to talk about the upcoming referendum. Welcome to the show.
Sydney Chertoff (SC): Thanks.
DH: So what’s the general history behind LPIRG with the University of Lethbridge?
SC: So, LPIRG was founded back in 2003. It is a not-for-profit organization here on campus. We operate through a student levy, but we’re not owned by the university. Yeah. So we help students get involved in both social and climate justice actions.
DH: And what’s going on with the referendum for LPIRG?
SC: So we are asking students to increase our levy fee from $5 in the fall and spring semesters to $6.50 going forward. We haven’t raised our levy in about 20 years and the cost of things have just gone up for everybody. And as much as we hate to ask students for more fees and more burden on their already really stretched situation, we really want to increase our fees so we’re able to give back more.
DH: Why is this referendum important for LPIRG?
SC: So most of what LPIRG does is actually we get the levy back, and then we give it back to students through event funding, research funding and project funding. So the increase in the levy allows us to continue to give back more to more various projects and more students throughout the semester. We give grants in increments of $250 to $500 for, again, events. So if, for example, the Black Excellence Gala or projects, if they’re working on different student oriented projects often, we also have travel grants for students who go to conferences. We have four different students going to conferences this year through the travel grant. We also run our own projects such as the Fresh Food Box Project, where we provide free fresh produce for students once a month and as well as soup kits once a month to students, and we don’t actually use the levy too much for that. We get our own grants, but we use the levy to help us pilot these projects until we can get grants. So in a way it always goes back to our students.
DH: So you’re saying that the student levy, even though it’s an increase on their end, it is directly impacting other students within their community, if not themselves?
SC: Exactly. It goes right back. I’m always very transparent about what the money goes to. It pays the one staff person, pays our rent, and then the rest of the money goes right back to the students.
DH: You probably already touched on this, but what are the benefits of this referendum towards students of the U of L?
SC: It creates more opportunities. So the amount of money we’re able to give back to students within even just one semester alone will go up. So that means we’re able to fund more individual projects as we get applications. And for reference, you know, we get five to 10 applications a semester so the more we can fund, the more projects we see students able to participate in, complete. Often these projects and events and research effects more than the students asking us for the money, so often they’re holding events that other students can come and participate in.
DH: If people have any questions or would like some further information on LPIRG’s referendum, what are the best ways they can reach out and get that information?
SC: They can email us at pirg [at] uleth.ca. They can message us on Instagram. They can come to our office between 3pm and 7pm, Monday through Thursday. Anyways, they can call the number on our website, our website’s just lpirg.org. Any of those ways we will answer.
DH: Outside of the referendum, what are other ways people can help and support LPIRG?
SC: Just by participating in the different events and projects we have going on. Even by participating in the Fresh Food Box project and getting your soup kits and these free fresh produce boxes, which we do have some available for community members as well. It shows that people are engaging with us, and that’s the most support we can demonstrate to our community – that we are used and we are necessary in our community, and that we’re here to support students. So that’s helpful. We have a lot of upcoming really cool events. We have our advocacy 1 0 1 conference on March 4th, where we have five different panelists in multiple workshops. It’s a one-day long conference that’s free for students and community members. The panelists are all experts in different forms of advocacy, such as climate or mutual aid, things like that. And it’s completely free, so just coming to these types of events and participating. LPIRG is also participating in the large provincial climate corps campaign going on to have a climate corps established in Alberta. LPIRG is actually representing Lethbridge in the provincial campaign. We are the hub for the city, so even by participating in things like that are a huge support to LPIRG.
DH: For people who want to stay up to date with what’s going on with LPIRG and other future events, what are the best ways they can do that?
SC: I would say our Instagram is a really great way. We stay on top of that quite a bit, but also our website is regularly updated. We also have a newsletter and I always tell people not to worry, I don’t spam anyone. They take me way too long to make to send more than one or two a month maximum. But I try to send it out monthly to let folks know what’s going on.
DH: Thank you so much for coming in and sharing this information with us.
SC: Thank you so much for having me.