Senate promotes student involvement in legislature

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The Senate of College Councils has launched a campaign to increase student outreach to Texas legislatures, said President Carisa Nietsche.

The Senate is working together in conjunction with Student Government and the Graduate Student Assembly on the Higher Ed at Home initiative. It aims to get students in contact with their local state legislators to explain why higher education matters to their constituents even if there is not a university in their district.

Higher Ed at Home is the first initiative of the 2012 Invest in Texas campaign, a non-partisan student-led campaign focused on lobbying the state legislature for issues that students care about.

“Higher Ed at Home was designed to make the issues of higher education a local issue,” Nietsche said. “It really shows that constituents care about higher education.”

Despite the fact that it is not a legislative year, the Senate is still working to prepare for the next legislative session, said Invest in Texas campaign spokesman Michael Morton.

“I hope that students take initiative over spring break and go talk to their legislators,” Nietsche said.

The efforts of the campaign have not gone unnoticed by the state legislators, Morton said.

“We have had really positive responses,” Morton said. “Especially with the voter ID issue. Representative Dan Branch has been very helpful in getting this changed.”

Even though 25 organizations and many students have been involved in the endeavor, the Senate is always looking for more people to participate, Morton said.

“A lot of the efforts are going into outreach to different organizations and just not politically oriented ones,” Morton said. “We even tried a postcard campaign to get more students involved.”

Although the campaign fought to reduce budget cuts, the University was still affected, receiving a $92 million cut from the legislature.

“There have been cuts in staff and some faculty reduction, but the University has tried to limit academic cuts so as not to affect the students,” said Mary Knight, associate vice president and budget director for the University.

“Anytime the students carry the message to their legislature, it is very effective because legislators listen very carefully and take both sides into consideration,” she said. “Last session, students from many organizations went to campus and spoke both for and against the issues.”

Printed on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 as: Senate advocates for student involvement in Texas legislature