USG representatives use ASU's 'Day at the Capitol' to establish relationships with lawmakers

USG representatives say that the event helps further bridge the connection between students and lawmakers

The rain didn’t wash away the spirits of student government officials, ASU administration members or students who flooded the Capitol with maroon and gold Wednesday. 

The gathering was part of the 32nd annual ASU Day at the Capitol, where students meet with lawmakers and advocate for the policies important to them. Across from the Capitol, several programs from each campus huddled under tents to showcase their achievements, while some students met with lawmakers face-to-face.

University President Michael Crow also stopped by the tabling event to greet students and faculty. Crow mingled with other groups that were on the Capitol grounds and then headed to the House and Senate to meet with lawmakers. 

There, Crow was joined by Senior Vice President and Secretary of the UniversitySecretary Christine Wilkinson, Athletic Director Ray Anderson, ASU football Head Coach Herm Edwards and Sparky on the floor of the House of Representatives where they were recognized for their contributions to Arizona and the University.

Crow and his legislative team met with lawmakers to discuss policies that affect the University. He said, overall, the turnout and legislative outreach efforts by him and students were “positive.”

“Our objective is to project all of the things the University is doing in sort of a one-stop shopping place — you show up, you see schools, programs, degrees, initiatives, all of those things, and that’s what we try to do once a year,” Crow said. “When it doesn’t rain, it’s good and when it rains it’s OK.”

But the bulk of the efforts was made by students from each campus’ Undergraduate Student Government. The groups met with lawmakers, catching them in the lobby between committee hearings in hopes of forging relationships and establishing a channel for future dialogue.

Aly Perkins, senate president of USG Downtown, said the interaction is important to establishing a relationship and that it helps put a face to the ASU student body. Perkins said she was pleased with the turnout and believes that she and her fellow student representatives laid the groundwork for meaningful connections with lawmakers down the road.

“It was nice to see students from all four campuses coming together and talking to representatives and getting their voice out there," Perkins said.

Most of those outreach efforts, Perkins said, were aimed at lawmakers representing the Phoenix area. Perkins’ colleague, Ryan Leith, USG Downtown’s vice president of policy met with Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, and other downtown Phoenix lawmakers Wednesday.

Although the students were not advocating for any specific policies that day, Leith said that issues like higher education funding and bills that addressed things like non-lethal weapons on campus and leaseback financing were on the minds of student representatives.

But establishing that connection and sharing student input and priorities, Leith said, is the extent of their efforts — their best and only assets. Since students have little political capital and are competing with much larger and better organized interests, establishing that personal connection is important.

“What I’ve found is that meeting with individual legislators and making a personal connection … makes it a lot easier to move forward on, maybe not funding, but maybe discussions, forums and bringing them to us and getting students involved in that process,” Leith said.

“It (getting involved) is easy," he said. "It’s easy to come down here and be involved. Showing students that it is easy and showing students how to get involved is the challenge.”

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