Information session urges students to lobby for the U

Speakers at the event promoted U Lobby Day, planned for Feb. 23 at the Capitol.

Students should speak up more at the Legislature, said two presenters at an information session on lobbying Tuesday.

Approximately 25 students gathered in Coffman Union’s President’s Room, where Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, and the University Legislative Network grassroots coordinator Mike Dean spoke.

The meeting, planned by the Minnesota Student Association, was organized to get ready for U Lobby Day at the Capitol on Feb. 23.

The speakers emphasized the importance of student involvement in lobbying as a means to help control the rapidly increasing tuition rates.

“The one thing I hear from every legislator is ‘We want to hear from more students,’ ” Dean said. “But they’re not hearing from them now.

“(University) President (Bob) Bruininks is down there every day, but you have something he doesn’t,” he said.

Pappas emphasized the importance of one-on-one contact between legislators and students.

“Individual lobbying is more effective than mass lobbying,” she said. “There are rallies every day at the Capitol, and it’s not like they’re not noticed, but they’re ignored. It’s nothing new or exciting.”

She urged students to relate personal stories to their legislators.

“It’s not enough to just talk about (higher education’s) importance to the economy and the nation’s future, even though it’s true,” she said. “And it’s definitely important to know where the legislator is coming from, so you know how to tailor your message.”

In a departure from Pappas, Dean urged the importance of group action.

“Really, it’s about numbers,” he said. “The media takes notice of big groups at the Capitol. But what we need isn’t the 30 students (who are) here, but hundreds of students.”

Dean told those in attendance to get out the word about U Lobby Day.

“Talk to your friends, talk to your classmates,” he said. “This isn’t really a political event, it’s a chance to get your voice heard.”

But he also emphasized that the lobbying effort doesn’t end with participation at U Lobby Day.

“I encourage you not only to attend the lobby day but join the Legislative Network, write letters, make phone calls, let them know you’re a voter,” he said.

“We can do nothing, or we can get up and talk to our legislators. You really can make a difference.”