Student groups lobby in nation

By Lindsay Carroll

Students learn to lobby.

Nick Trainer and the Student Government Board are not the… Students learn to lobby.

Nick Trainer and the Student Government Board are not the only ones that try to influence government legislation and funding.

While SGB tries not to get ‘too political,’ said Trainer, it hopes to act as a resource for student organizations interested in lobbying at the state and federal levels.

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He said the word ‘lobbyist’ has a negative connotation.

‘The thing about lobbyists is they are being paid to promote a cause,’ said Trainer. ‘Whatever you can buy, [the company] probably has someone lobbying for their cause.’

Students probably don’t always realize that lobbyists advocate on their behalf, as well, he said.

‘It’s the same as an individual saying, ‘I’m a constituent, and I’d like you to vote for this,” said Trainer.

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood organized a coalition of student groups to visit Harrisburg legislators and encourage them to pass bills for comprehensive sex education.

They worked with the Pitt chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and invited Campus Women’s Organization to participate.

Tiffany Hickman, a Planned Parenthood representative who organized the trip, said the group wanted to reach out to students to get their unique perspective on the issue.

‘We wanted to reach out to college students because most of them are members of the abstinence-only generation,’ said Hickman. ‘College students now are students that didn’t receive comprehensive sex education in high school.’

Hickman said that after the Pennsylvania legislature trip, she found out that Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, decided to co-sponsor the Healthy Youth Act, which would require sex education that includes prevention methods.

The United States Student Association is also a student-run organization that lobbies for higher education. Nila Devanath, the Atlantic region chair at the group’s national level, said the group used to be SGB-sponsored, but it’s now becoming a student group on campus because of controversy during the board elections last semester.

The group, which currently has 12 members, lobbied Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to pass the stimulus bill, because some federal money should eventually come to Pitt to compensate for the 6 percent funding decrease.

Devanath said the group gave a thank-you note to Specter, who was one of three Republicans to vote in favor of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, during a trip to Washington.

The Pitt USSA chapter also plans to lobby for the DREAM Act, which would allow students who have lived in the United States for five years to attend U.S. colleges with financial aid eligibility.