Students to lobby members of Congress from Illinois about campus-wide issues

Rebecca Savransky, Campus Editor

Members of Associated Student Government traveled to Washington, D.C., this weekend as part of an annual event for Big Ten schools. The event focused on lobbying members of Congress from Illinois  about several campus-wide issues.

Six students are attending the conference called “Big Ten on the Hill,” sponsored by the Association of Big Ten Students. The conference runs from April 6-8. The program is aimed around promoting student involvement in a national forum. This is the first time in recent years NU has sent a delegation to the event, said Kevin Harris, ASG community relations vice president.

The agenda includes briefings at offices in the White House and meetings with specific members of Congress from Illinois.

“We are essentially here to represent student issues so we’ll be meeting with different departments over the next couple days, meeting with senators and representatives,” Harris said. “The goal is really just to represent student interests on a national level here in D.C.”

Prior to arriving in D.C., members of ASG compiled five main issues to focus on that have relevance to NU students. Over the next few days, student delegates will meet with several offices about problems relating to mental health, campus sexual assault, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, student debt and textbook affordability.

“We’re here to advocate on behalf of Northwestern students and show that students really do care about the issues we’re bringing forward,” Harris said.

ASG representatives will be going to the White House on Monday and will be attending briefings at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and at the Department of Education. Students will also be given a briefing regarding sexual assault, specifically relating to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. On Tuesday, the students will be given a presentation by the Government Relations staff of some Big Ten schools prior to attending lobbying meetings at the offices of members of Congress from Illinois, including Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.). Harris said he and other ASG representatives will be meeting either with the members of Congress directly or with education legislative directors from their offices.

Executive vice president Alex Van Atta, a McCormick senior, said the event will give him and other ASG representatives the opportunity to lobby for issues important to students, noting the event was a “rare opportunity to be able to engage with people on a national level.”

“I think the main goal from my perspective is the chance to interact with real Illinois representatives that we’ve come here to meet with and to be able to provide a student perspective to the issues that we really care about,” Van Atta said.

He added that he was also looking forward to discussing projects other Big Ten school student governments are spearheading and to learning about different issues important across other campuses.

Harris said he was excited about the event and looking forward to representing NU and lobbying about several important student concerns on a national level.

“So this is a great first step — or great second step — as we continue to look for more opportunities to be involved in national issues,” Harris said. “This is a prime opportunity so I think it’s great experience for us and will be a building block for the first steps in continued involvement in national politics and lobbying on student issues.”

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