Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Student organizations prepare for Advocacy Day

By Joseph Carstairs

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Collegian File Photo

(Collegian File Photo)

The Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, along with other students and organizations, will go to the Massachusetts State House Great Hall of Flags on March 7 to advocate for additional funding towards higher education. The fifth annual gathering will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

According to Natalie Higgins, executive director of PHENOM, those who register online “will be getting updates and resources to help them on Advocacy Day, as well as information about the campus week of action from Feb. 29 to March 4.”

The campus “week of action” will consist of different themes revolving around getting students ready for Advocacy Day, such as how to lobby and information on the issues involved.

Aiding in Advocacy Day are two University of Massachusetts registered student organizations: the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Education Policy and Advocacy.

Charlotte Kelly, communications and outreach director for CEPA, says their group’s interest in Advocacy Day stems from a belief that “student power” is a “mechanism for change.”

MASSPIRG Chapter Chair Lucas Gutterman said their biggest goal leading up to the event is “recruitment, recruitment, recruitment. We just need a lot of people to show up, because it shows administrators that we are listening.”

“The purpose of Advocacy Day is for us to show up at the budgeting process,” Kelly explained. “Every year UMass is allocated a budget from the State House. Basically, it’s proposed by the governor and then the house and the senate can propose their budgets as well. So our role is to ask for the highest amount of money that has been proposed for us.”

“We need state funding now more than ever… and it’s really tapered off,” Gutterman said. “What that does is it puts a huge burden on students to fund the University through tuition fees.”

This is the first year that Advocacy Day will involve a plea for free education, an idea not thought possible in years past. Gutterman gives thanks to a surge in pro-affordable education politics like Obama’s free community college plan for making this idea even possible.

Gutterman said that after Advocacy Day, there will be a reception at the UMass Club in Boston at 4 p.m.

“All the legislators are invited,” he said. “There’s going to be undergraduate students presenting research and we’re going to get to talk one-on-one with legislators and show them what we’re actually doing.”

Gutterman believes that lobbying senators for increased funding for the UMass system is “the most effective way that we have at our disposal right now to tackle the student debt crisis.”

Joseph Carstairs can be reached at [email protected]

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