Students Lobby for Change at the Capital

With educational issues on their minds, a busload of WCU students traveled to Raleigh on Tuesday, February 20, to lobby the North Carolina legislation.

About 60 WCU students boarded a bus at 6:45 am to make the five-hour trip to the state capital. Fourteen other universities in the UNC system sent representatives to Student Lobby Day, an event designed to persuade North Carolina legislators to raise faculty salaries, create new programs, and allow a student vote on the UNC system’s governing body, the Board of Governors.

David Chesley, chief of communications for WCU SGA, led WCU’s group at the rally. He affirmed that the day was a success for the students who came out in an attempt to influence the legislators’ opinions on bills that would affect every student in the UNC system.

“We touched base with nearly every legislator that was there that day,” said Chesley.

Students arrived at Halifax Mall, an open grassy area behind the legislative building, hours before the House and Senate went into session to discuss legislation concerning the university system.

Each student body president, from the universities that were represented at the rally, spoke to the crowd, and students took the opportunity to show spirit for their school by cheering and holding up signs when their president took the stage, said Chesley.

Because of the $900 million state budget deficit, legislators were not very receptive to the students’ suggestions to create more programs or increase faculty salaries. The issue of a student being able to vote on the UNC system Board of Governors was much more agreeable to the members of the legislature, however.

According to Chesley, 26 out of the 50 members of the N.C. Senate said that they would vote for a bill that would allow the president of the Association of Student Governments to have a vote on the Board of Governors. Even though a majority of the senators were in favor of the bill, it was sent to the Senate Rules and Operations committee.

Chesley says that it is now up to students to help the bill get moved to the Education Committee, which is designed to deal with higher education issues such as this one, by showing support for the bill through phone calls or e-mails to senators.

“Our best bet right now on the student vote on the Board of Governors is a grassroots effort,” said Chesley.