Student voice necessary

Tomorrow, students from all four University campuses will converge on the state Legislature for Lobby Day. This is a unique opportunity for students to represent the University in a manner even President Mark Yudof cannot. Providing the Legislature with the human side of the University – the students – has a profound impact.

Turnout by students from the Twin Cities campus has been dismal in recent years, highlighted by the fact that students from the Duluth, Crookston and Morris campuses – some of whom spend hours traveling to the Capitol – have lobbied in greater numbers in the past several years.

With the state facing a serious budget shortfall, the University should not expect to receive its full capital budget request. The Legislature and governor will be forced to prioritize the University’s request. Students need to inform these elected officials about their personal priorities. University administrators have their own set of priorities for which they need to campaign, so students must emphasize their own needs.

The University plays a key role in the state’s economy and demonstrating that value is one of the most important jobs of University administrators. But even well-orchestrated presentations and well-produced materials distributed by the administration will not have as powerful an effect on legislators as students mobilized to illustrate the real impact of the University on the state.

Students explaining their needs will demonstrate this impact. Students relating success stories to legislators will demonstrate this impact. And students complaining about sacrifices they are making in pursuit of their education will certainly demonstrate this impact.

In past years, students have helped increase the level of funding by the state. Last year, the University received more than twice the money Gov. Jesse Ventura proposed. Student lobbying efforts, both on Lobby Day and after, are largely responsible for this political victory.

Even if you cannot attend Lobby Day, participating in the University’s lobbying efforts is important. Writing, e-mailing or calling legislators and the governor to convey the importance of the University’s request to you – a constituent – can have a positive effect on the success of the request.

For more than 200 years, the political process in the United States has been dependent on a vocal and informed populace voicing their interests to lawmakers. Students must embrace this role and make their presence felt.