Students lobby local government officials to foster dialogue on higher education issues

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Members of the ASUC Senate lobbied the offices of various state representatives Tuesday in an effort to increase student leadership and foster a dialogue on issues pertaining to higher education.

ASUC senators, members of their constituencies and members of the ASUC Lobby Corps met with government representatives from Oakland and San Francisco — such as the offices of California Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein — to lobby on behalf of issues such as Prop. 13 reform, Pell Grants, the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act and the Student Loan Certainty Act.

The lobby visits are part of a larger initiative by the ASUC Senate to encourage lobbying among student leaders on campus, according to SB 34, an ASUC Senate bill passed in October in support of lobbying. Senators chose what they lobbied on, which ranged from topics raised by the UC Student Association, such as the California Modernization and Economic Development Act and the Invest in Graduations, Not Incarceration, Transform Education campaign, to issues posed by their campus communities.

SQUELCH! Senator Emily Truax, who helped organize the lobby visits, went with fellow SQUELCH! Senator Grant Fineman and members of Lobby Corps to meet with Pelosi’s office and discuss student loans and sexual assault on college campuses.

CalSERVE Senator Caitlin Quinn, along with members of Cal Berkeley Democrats, lobbied the office of California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

“We lobbied on a queer issues because (Ammiano) is a big deal in the queer community,” Quinn said.

Other students met with a representative from Ammiano’s office to discuss issues such as the Food and Drug Administration’s lifetime ban on blood donations from gay men and California Assembly Bill 1266, which allows transgender students to choose which gender to identify with in gender-specific bathrooms and athletic teams.

They also discussed AB 620, which requires CSU campuses and community colleges to ask for sexual orientation on their student applications so that LGBT and queer resources on campus can use the information for outreach to queer students. Although the university is not currently required to gather this information from its applicants, Quinn said she hopes that starting a dialogue about the subject would spark similar policies and improve the efficiency of queer resources on UC campuses.

“We thought it was really important for senators to participate in lobby visits,” said ASUC Lobby Corps Deputy Sally Ching. “They are elected to represent and be the voice of students.”

As mandated by SB 34, starting next year, ASUC senators will be required to undergo student-lobbying training as part of their preterm training program that occurs before each senate class takes office. This year’s ASUC senators received lobbying training at a senate meeting through a presentation from ASUC Lobby Corps on Dec. 4.

The bill strongly encourages senators to lobby at least one official on the local, state or national level by the end of their terms.

While Tuesday’s lobby visits were to local government offices, Truax said there will be another lobby visit next semester to Sacramento.

Jennie Yoon is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jennieyoon_.