OPIRG works to create and sustain student and community-based engagement through research, education and action on social justice and environmental issues; challenging oppression in all its forms; and using consensus-based decision-making in a non-hierarchical and accessible setting.
Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) was first established in Ontario in 1973. It was sparked by numerous distinct social change efforts. One of the very first was the introduction of “muckrakers”. These were journalists who began in the so-called United States to expose corrupt leaders and companies and called them out for things like unethical working conditions, illegal industrial practices, monopolies, racial discrimination, child labour, patent medicine poisonings etc. Their work assisted in the creation of regulations and regulatory laws. Though their work was not easy, they paved the way for the introduction of things such as the student movement and free speech movement.
The student and free speech movements arose in the 1960s as students began to fight for student rights and the quality of education. Overall, there was a large increase of students taking their social critique to the broader community as they utilized peace marches, protests, demonstrations, and occupations. At the same time, radical academics and radical journalists arose and further encouraged social and environmental change.
OPIRG is rooted in this history as we continue the social and environmental changes. Today there are about a dozen PIRGs across Ontario and several across the country. In 1976 via a campus-wide referendum, OPIRG Peterborough (Nogojiwanong) became an autonomous member of the Ontario PIRG’s movement.
The Peterborough Chapter of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), with the support of local voluntary governance, has provided space, a multitude of resources and support for students and community members to develop activist and transferable skills, while they work on social and environmental issues that are of utmost importance to them and their communities to implement social change.
What is OPIRG?
OPIRG is a student-directed, student-funded organization that facilitates the production of public interest research. It arose as a response to two separate but related manifestations of dissatisfaction with the present social system.
OPIRG has several related but different functions:
- It is an organization established to undertake public interest research
- It is a popular education organization involved in raising public issues and mobilizing public opinion
- It is an action organization committed to developing and implementing strategies directed towards bringing about concrete social change
- It is a student organization that is concerned with making education more relevant to both individual students and the broader community
- It is an organization committed to providing alternative career models and to developing alternative organizations
- It is an organization that attempts to create a supportive environment for “whistleblowers” inside corporations and institutional bureaucracies
Goals of OPIRG
Many of OPIRG’s goals are linked with our relationship with the University community, as outlined below:
- The creation of an ongoing organization that will attempt to link student, faculty and institutional research with an attack on pressing community problems.
- To build a strong base within the student body in support of OPIRG specifically and public interest research generally.
- To teach students and faculty how to do public interest research.
- To encourage students and faculty to become involved in community action projects.
- To help free some of the resources of the university for use by the community.
- To help make education more relevant and exciting, less abstract and aloof.
OPIRG also has goals outlined for our efforts in the community:
- To build “a movement” with strong community links independent of any economic or political vested interest which will be capable of stimulating social change that is “in the public interest”.
- To engage in educational activities in the community based on research findings about important social issues.
- To undertake “action campaigns” designed to bring about “concrete social change”.
- To provide a means by which the community can gain access to what the university has to offer- information and research capabilities.
- To encourage citizens to become actively involved in community issues.
What We Offer
- Volunteer and Board member opportunities
- Student jobs
- Class placements for highschool, undergraduate, or graduate programs
- The Green Dishes program
- Research projects through the Trent Community Research Center
- Professional development training in anti-oppression and consensus-based decision-making
- Funding for community initiatives
- A space and resources for Working Groups
- An example of a successful Working Group that OPIRG helped create, support, and sustain is the Food Issues Group (FIG) . The group eventually turned into the popular Seasoned Spoon Cafe at Trent University.
- Disorientation Week every September
- It is a week of workshops, discussions, tours, and events that engage new and returning students, as well as the Nogojiwanong (Peterborough) community, that challenges you to think differently and focus on social and environmental justice issues.