Advocating on Advocacy Day
written by | Sarah Berns
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Each year, state university students gather in St. Paul to advocate on behalf of their fellow students to ensure their voices are heard by our state legislature. This day has resulted in student victories, such as stopping tuition increases, allocating funds for textbook affordability, funding for university building projects, and ensuring financial aid for students. This year, Advocacy Day will be held March 27th.
However, let’s start at the begin with the basic questions, such as why do we advocate, what do we advocate on, how do we advocate, what is Advocacy Day, why is Advocacy Day important and how do we define success.
What is Advocacy Day?
Advocacy Day is a one day event orchestrated by Students United to bring students from all state universities together at the Capitol. Students arrive the night prior for training and lobbying orientation.
On Advocacy Day, students are separated into their lobbying group by university. Each group meets with legislators throughout the day. Traditionally, groups meet with the legislators that represent their university and hometown districts, in addition to the chairs of the higher education committees.
The groups spend around 20 minutes with each legislator to initiate a dialogue around the items on our legislative agenda. Students are encouraged to add personal stories and accounts when advocating, to show legislators what is affecting students and how they can make positive changes for students.
What do we advocate on?
In November 2017, students worked to craft Students United 2018 State Legislative Agenda. That agenda is what students lobby lawmakers on during their meetings.
Those agenda items are:
Students United supports the Minnesota State 2018 Capital Request
Students United supports efforts to make textbooks more affordable
Students United supports a supplemental budget request by the system office that provides funding for ISRS but also support for our campuses.
Students United supports affirmative consent policy.
Why is Advocacy Day important?
Face-to-face advocating by the people who are directly affected by our legislative agenda, is an incredibly powerful tool. This day allows dozens of students the opportunity to speak with people who can affect policies to help students.
Advocacy Day empowers students to directly address legislators with a student-crafted agenda written for the betterment of their state universities.
Who participates in Advocacy Day and How can I get involved?
A group of seven students from each of our seven campuses participate in Advocacy Day. They are the Students United Board member and intern as well as five additional students. To get involved in Advocacy Day reach out to your Students United Board Member or Intern to have your name added to the team.
What can I expect on Advocacy Day?
Leading up to Advocacy Day, Students United staff will work with participants to prepare them for the day. We will set up trainings and review the issues, talking points and material to ensure all students are ready. Students will travel to St. Paul the evening of March 26th for a group dinner and training. Starting in the morning on the 20th, students will attend pre-arranged meetings with legislators to lobby on important issues. Once their meetings are over, students will head back to their campuses.
How do we succeed?
Our advocating efforts are successful if we bring student stories to the ears of our policymakers, if we ensure issues that affect students are brought to the attention of students who are then able to clearly and effectively communicate their opinions back, and if we maximize opportunities for students to participate in our lobbying efforts. This work ultimately leads to laws that create student retention, affordability, and success.
Students United Vice-Chair Lexi Byler said, "Students United's Advocacy Day provided me my first opportunity to meet with my legislators at the state Capitol. I've always been interested in politics and it was great to be able to be immersed in that world. It was also awesome to see collaboration from students from all seven state universities, lobbying together in an effort to better our schools."