Students lobby for higher ed.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Hawkins.

Members of ASUU’s Government Relations Board pose for a photo at the Utah State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Lisa Hawkins.

With the state legislative session in progress, Lisa Hawkins, is busy organizing lobbying events.

Hawkins, a junior in political science, is the director of the Government Relations Board in ASUU. She said at least one member of the Government Relations Board has attended the higher education appropriations subcommittee meetings since the legislative session began in late January.

“We have been staying really on top of what’s discussed,” Hawkins said.

The subcommittee is made up of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The subcommittee listens to higher education institutions from across the state, then gives feedback and advises the rest of the legislature on whether or not a higher education bill should pass.

Hawkins said that right now the only bill she is really involved with lobbying for is the higher education base budget. This bill will determine how much funding each public higher education institution will receive from the state Legislature this year.

“It’s been a really informative experience to be there,” she said.

She added that U president David Pershing’s presentation was “concise” and that “the U’s success speaks for itself.”

The Government Relations Board is preparing for a student lobby at the State Capitol in coordination with groups from other colleges and universities on Friday, Feb. 14. Hawkins said she would like to have a small group of students who are very passionate about the U’s needs to attend instead of a large group of students lobbying for various interests. The Utah Student Association is coordinating the event.

“My objective for that day is to mainly to show that students do have a presence in local politics and local government,” Hawkins said. “I think students are sometimes seen as not being especially large participants in politics or government, and I want to prove them wrong.”

While the board will be focusing the majority of its efforts on supporting the higher education base budget, they are also looking to help students lobby for things that matter to them, such as the Clean Air Act.

“We kind of have to take it as it comes,” Hawkins said about plans to lobby for other bills this legislative session.

Hawkins said lobbying is one of the best ways students can get involved in local politics. She said she believes it also helps the legislature discover what issues are actually important to students and what students would like to see happen.

ASUU president Sam Ortiz, a senior in social work, agreed.

“Always, No. 1 priority is affordable tuition,” Ortiz said. “Actually, compared to other universities, we have fairly affordable tuition, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better.”