Eagles soar to Washington’s Capitol to lobby for university issues

The+Washington+Capitol+Building+in+Olympia.+Previous+trips+from+EWU+allowed+students+to+lobby+for+personal+and+university+interests.
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Eagles soar to Washington’s Capitol to lobby for university issues

The Washington Capitol Building in Olympia. Previous trips from EWU allowed students to lobby for personal and university interests.

The Washington Capitol Building in Olympia. Previous trips from EWU allowed students to lobby for personal and university interests.

Courtesy of Pixabay

The Washington Capitol Building in Olympia. Previous trips from EWU allowed students to lobby for personal and university interests.

Courtesy of Pixabay

Courtesy of Pixabay

The Washington Capitol Building in Olympia. Previous trips from EWU allowed students to lobby for personal and university interests.

By Sam Jackson, Eastern Washington University

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EWU students are on a mission to express their concerns and advocate for bills that matter to this university and universities at a statewide level, by taking a trip to Olympia for Eagles’ Lobby Day.

The two-day event invites students to gather on a bus and ride to the capitol addressing eight priority bills and issues to the state’s house and senate representatives. Some of EWU’s legislative agenda was developed from insight collected at ASEWU’s I Care About… event that sought input from students about concerns on issues they care about, as well as statewide input from the Washington Student Association Council.

EWU senior Francisco Flores will attend Eagles’ Lobby Day for the third time. He previously served as ASEWU’s Legislative Liaison during 2017-18 and is the vice president of WSAC. Flores says that students “are invisible” when it comes to state legislature, and that’s why attending the event is so important.

“If students don’t go, no one else is going to speak up for them,” Flores said.

One of the bills students are advocating for is the College Promise Scholarship: SB 5393 (HB 1340), in which students will ask legislators to vote on a policy allowing students to graduate without debt. According to the Washington State Legislature website, this bill establishes a “statewide free college program by changing the state need grant to the Washington College Promise Scholarship.”

“I would definitely say college without debt is probably the biggest (bill),” Jevion Knox, an EWU student attending Lobby Day and mastering in social work said. ”I think for students that are graduating, obviously you want to graduate with the least amount of debt as possible, and I think that’s an overall theme that most students should have in common.”

Students will lobby in regards to the State Loan Student Program: HB 1542. Students are asking for financial assistance in paying state loans and that it be managed by WSAC. The Child Care: HB 1303 bill removes certain restrictions on subsidized child care costs for higher education students. This bill is on the agenda because students are asking the state to lower the work hour requirements for these parents to 19 hours.

If students don’t go, no one else is going to speak up for them”

— Francisco Flores, senior

As for the issues EWU students plan to lobby, funding for the remodel of the science building is at the top of the list. EWU’s science building was built in the 1970s and the university is requesting an investment of  $7.9 million for the remodel.

Students will advocate for ballot postage to permanently be funded by the state. They will also address the food insecurity issue on campus in hopes of building a state waiver for students that are both food insecure and below a work hour requirement.

Additionally, the state’s legislature previously voted that faculty would receive a 2 percent raise but only 1 percent is being compensated by the state. Therefore, the university is currently covering the other 1 percent. During Lobby Day students are asking lawmakers for the entire 2 percent be compensated by the state as promised, according to Angelica Garcia-Macias, ASEWU legislative affairs representative and event organizer.

“I think it’s really important that our teachers are able to live, and they are able to be the best that they can be and spend as much time as they want with their students instead of having to worry about how they are going to live,” Flores said.

And you are fighting for other people. You are fighting for your peers and the people in your class, so that’s kind of like the best part I think.”

— Jevion Knox, student

The final platform on the agenda is for informed-consent education to be reinforced in K-12 and higher education institutions.

According to Flores, it’s important that lobbyists have a personal connection to back up their advocacy regarding a bill or issue they choose to share with the representatives. For Garcia-Macias, the way college expenses affected her husband does give the proposed bills a personal impact.

“My husband is a school drop out because he couldn’t afford to go to school due to outside stressors, and that really hit personally,” Garcia-Macias said. “Knowing that he isn’t able to go to school when I know that he is so intelligent and just well-deserving of an education … It’s getting a little too expensive to go to school, and that’s getting stressful for students.”

Through this event, Garcia-Macias would have the opportunity to share that experience and connect it to her lobbying efforts.

The event can also be an opportunity to get to know the people that are representing you and making decisions that affect your community.

“I think the most surprising thing was politicians, anytime you see them in like movies or TV they seem so stoic and machine-like,” Flores said. “And once you get to meet them and actually get to know them, they are just real people. They are really fun to talk to, and you get to actually know them as a human rather than just as a legislators.”

The event can hold up to 45 attendees and is intended for all students despite major and political connection, according to Garcia-Macias.

“Even if you are not accustomed to it, I would say just try it out,” Knox said. “ It definitely doesn’t hurt to try, and it’s a very cool thing that it’s set up by student government. … And you are fighting for other people. You are fighting for your peers and the people in your class, so that’s kind of like the best part I think.”

Sign-ups for the event are available on EagleSync, listed on ASEWU’s events page. Students will leave campus on March 14 from the visitor’s center and will return from Olympia on March 16. The event is free for all students who attend and includes hotel and meal costs. For more information contact Garcia-Macias at [email protected].•

This story was originally published on The Easterner on February 14, 2019.