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The Diamondback
Kimberly Escobar

Tom Klotz said he felt almost childlike when he found out that the University of Maryland MaryPIRG chapter would be given the opportunity to discuss its work at the White House.

Klotz, the president of this university's MaryPIRG chapter, and other members met with four White House executives on Feb. 22 to discuss the advocacy group's textbook affordability campaign.

This is the first time the chapter has been invited to the White House since Klotz became president last April, said Klotz, a senior government and politics major.

"I grew up admiring our presidents and the work they have done," said Klotz. "To be in a room where the president of the United States had stood is amazing. I'm so fortunate to have been given an opportunity to discuss something that my chapter cares about and to share it with the people that I admire the most."

The chapter held a forum before its big day to discuss its goals, which mainly focused on textbook prices, as well as how open-source textbook ideas could be improved on college campuses, said Ary Papadopoulos, a sophomore public health science major and the chapter's social media director.
The group also met up with and presented its campaign to other chapters from around the country, said Sara Carter, the chapter's campaign coordinator for MaryPIRG.

"Although the UMD chapter focused on textbook affordability, we also talked about our campaigns of getting antibiotics out of food, solar energy and student voter registration," said Carter, a sophomore government and politics major.

Carter also said she was nervous at first about going to the White House. This was the first time she presented ideas instead of taking a tour at the historic building.

"It was an incredible experience and humbling," she said. "It made me feel like what I was doing really mattered because we were able to schedule a meeting with staffers to discuss what we are doing, which is not something that you can always say."

Klotz said that while the entire group could not be there, it was great to see the work of all the members being recognized by this opportunity to discuss its campaigns.

"I was proud of the students that I work with," said Klotz. "We work really hard every day, and to have had this invitation was amazing for all of us."

The executives seemed responsive to the group's ideas, and the group hopes its campaign will also inspire change on other college campuses, Carter said.

"When we talked about open-source textbooks, they seemed really interested and listened to what we had to say," said Carter. "That made us feel really good because these are projects that we as a student chapter and national chapter work really hard on."