The Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group is expanding beyond its Big Red, Go Green campaign this semester to fighting homelessness, expensive textbooks and dirty politicians.
WISPIRG held its kickoff meeting in Birge Hall Tuesday, recruiting new members and spreading the word about the organization's new campaigns for the fall semester.
"The issues are huge and important to us," WISPIRG State and UW Chapter chair Jeff Rolling said. "We see these problems every day when we walk past the homeless on State Street or when we hear reports of global warming on the news."
Rolling said students also face similar problems when "reading our overpriced text books" and attending football games at a stadium that lacks recycling bins.
To address these issues, WISPIRG has outlined five campaigns including BRGG, Conservation and Recycling Efforts, Hunger and Homelessness, Affordable Textbooks and Clean Elections.
New Associate Dean of Students Argyle Wade and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz both spoke at the event.
Both Wade and Cieslewicz said the University of Wisconsin is known for its activism, as it historically produces a high number of peace corps volunteers.
Additionally, Wade said WISPIRG is an organization that is built on the "Wisconsin Idea," which encourages a commitment to making positive changes in the world.
"Activism is one of the reasons I took this job," Wade said. "This is exactly what we'd hoped. That you will come together to do meaningful things that will change society."
Cieslewicz discussed each of the group's five campaigns and explained how the city of Madison is working toward many of the same goals.
Regarding the campaigns, Cieslewicz voiced concern for the alarmingly high rate of homeless men in the city, which is up 30 percent since last year.
"What we have to do is put the Wisconsin Idea on steroids," Cieslewicz said. "We have to make sure that the benefits of the university really do get to the entire state."
This spring BRGG will be hosting an event funded by MTV, which awarded the group $5,000 to throw an "eco-party," BRGG coordinator Tony Uhl said.
Other major events on the WISPIRG slate include a nationwide energy conference during Earth Week this spring, which will feature expert guest speakers and weeklong events.
In addition, WISPIRG's Homelessness and Hunger campaign is hosting a national conference on Nov. 2 through Nov. 4.
"We are really, really excited to be hosting the 20th annual national student conference against hunger and homelessness," Homeless and Hunger conference coordinator Cathy Collentine said. “We're hoping to get 400 students from across the nation here in Madison talking about the issues that have to do with poverty."
Rolling, who oversees all WISPIRG campaigns, said the group's goals are relevant to all UW students.
"You go on campus, you go to class, you learn about global warming, you learn about recycling issues, and you come to our group and we say, 'Let's do a project, let's put what you know into motion,'" Rolling said.