We ran out of packets. We ran out of lunches. But we certainly didn’t run out of passion or energy!
Over 500 students, staff and faculty from almost every one of the public campuses came to the State House on March 8 with a simple powerful message: Public Higher Education is critical to the residents of Massachusetts, to our economy, and to our future, and must be adequately funded. After inspirational speeches (list of speakers below), 40 people held up signs with the names of the 40 State Senators, and a huge mass of people snaked their way through the auditorium to form lobby groups. Armed with talking points, maps of the State House, lobbying tips, and — most important — personal stories, the groups went to visit their Senators, and then their Representatives. After lunch, participants regrouped by school and visited the legislators who represent their school. [See videos and media coverage.]
All the sponsoring organizations (see below) agreed on a simple ask: “We respectfully ask the legislature to take these steps in the FY 2013 budget:
a) a 5% increase in the operating budgets of our 29 campuses, as well as the collective bargaining reserve proposed by the Governor.
b) increase the scholarship account (7070-0065) by 5%.”
“Costs have risen dramatically,” said Melanie T. Mulvey, 21, a senior at the Amherst campus. “It’s really hurting the university and the state. Low-income students are some of the people who need these opportunities the most because education really levels the playing field”
This was the largest public higher education day in many years. Participants – especially students – were better prepared than ever before. Most people knew who their legislators were before they arrived. Some campuses held trainings before hand, others did so on the buses. Legislators had received Top 10 Reasons to Invest in Public Higher Education in the 10 days leading up to March 8, so they too were prepped for good discussions.
Yesterday’s advocates are tomorrow’s organizers!
Hundreds of newly educated and energized advocates returned to their campuses with plans, or ready to make plans, to organize further advocacy efforts involving more students, parents, and others. Some ideas:
— a call-in day — where organizers provide pizza, a space, talking points and lists — students call their legislators
— a letter-writing week — legislators often tell us that personal letters, not form letters, have the biggest impact
— invite legislators to campus — so they can see the great things we do and hear from lots of people about our needs
Charles Desmond, Chair of the Board of Higher Education Angel Donohue-Rodriguez, student, Salem State Univesity Tom Sannicandro, House Co-Chair, Higher Education Committee
Michael Moore, Senate Co-Chair, Higher Education Committee
Richard Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education
Nicole Collins, student, Bristol Community College
Melanie Mulvey, student, UMass Amherst
Paul Reville, Secretary of Education
Paul Toner, President of Massachusetts Teachers Association
PHENOM pulled this coalition together, but all these groups played important roles making the Advocacy Day a success:
SAC – the Student Advisory Council (to Board of Higher Ed) CEPA – the Center for Educational Policy and Advocacy
MTA = the Massachusetts Teachers Association AFT-MA = the American Federation of Teachers (Mass.) The Public Higher Education Caucus of the Legislature The administrations of the Community Colleges, State Universities and UMass
(photos courtesy of Massachusetts Teachers Association)