ASOSU Lobby Team hits the ground on first day meeting with legislators

Ryan Khalife, Jacqueline Logsdon and Luke Bennett stand in front of the Capitol Building.

Riley Youngman, Editor-in-Chief

DACA, sexual assault prevention and college affordability.

Wednesday kicked off the ASOSU Lobby Team’s first day of on-the-ground lobbying. The team of nine lobbyists split themselves into three pre-arranged groups to divide the work and hyper-focus on issues specific to each team member. The Lobby Team divided their work on Wednesday as follows.

  • 11 a.m. meeting with the United States Student Association: All lobbyists and both student advisers.
  • 1 p.m. meeting with Jon Bosworth, a representative for Rep. Earl Blumenaur (Oregon 3rd District): Candalynn Johnson, Isamar Chávez and Eric George lobbying for S.900 and HR532.
  • 2:30 p.m. meeting with Rep. Peter DeFazio (Oregon 4th District): Josey Koehn, David Lax and Anesat León Guerrero lobbying for S.856, S.1949 and HR532.
  • 4 p.m. meeting with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and legislative aide: Jacqueline Logsdon, Ryan Khalife and Luke Bennett lobbying for S.856, S.1949 and S.900.

The student voice

The first meeting of the day was with the United States Student Association, a student-led organization that focuses on giving students a voice and mobilizing grassroots support to further student-related causes. At this point in time, there are only two full time staff members working at USSA. According to the USSA national officers, the majority of the work is done through the student board and student leaders.

The team spoke with USSA president Breana Ross and Joseline Garcia, the vice president. Topics of discussion included the range of issues the student lobbyists are here in D.C. to advocate on behalf of. The USSA team provided the group with insight on what to expect and how to effectively lobby.

“A lot of Republicans associate the word DACA with Obama, so using phrasing like ‘protection for undocumented citizens’ might be more effective,” Ross said.

Several of the group members, such as León Guerrero and Chávez, are focusing on DACA and issues related to people with temporary resident status through the program, as well as those living in the U.S. illegally.

Garcia urged the Lobby Team to to rely heavily on their personal narratives when meeting with legislators.

USSA also talked about the federal budget and the overarching impact that each aspect of this may have on legislation. If Congress does not reach an agreement on the federal budget by Friday, the government will shut down. Among the areas that are holding the budget up are President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border, as well as the amount allocated for defense spending.

Tuition and student concerns with the university as a whole were brought up. Brett Morgan, who serves as the student representative on the OSU Board of Trustees, brings both a student perspective as well as a Board member perspective to the group. Morgan said that the most pressing narrative among the Board is that the university cannot rely on the state for funding.

Morgan was the only Board member to vote no on the OSU tuition vote that took place on April 21.

Logsdon has felt that some legislators, both at the state and national levels, have given her an unfair ultimatum when asking for funding for various programs. By telling her funding some programs will cut funding from others, which will then cause people to get sick and die, is unfair.

Sexual assault was discussed as well. Referring to an article published in the Corvallis Advocate on April 12, 2017 titled “OSU Rape Case Proves Procedural Failure”, Logsdon and others from ASOSU said that although work has been done to combat sexual assault at OSU, there is still more that needs to be done.

In a recent interview with The Barometer for the article “OSU aims to provide resources for survivors” OSU president Ed Ray has noted that the university plans to further its efforts around sexual assault.

“Over the past four years, we have altered the sexual assault conversation at Oregon State University. And we have altered and greatly expanded our survivor support services and the university’s sexual assault prevention and response efforts,” Ray said via email for the article. “I am committed to continue these services at Oregon State and improve them as part of our many efforts to support survivors and bring an end to sexual assaults.”

Defending DACA

The first lobby meeting of the day took place in the Longworth House Office Building with a legislative aide for Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon’s Third District.

Due to legislators’ busy schedules, student lobbyists do not always get to meet with representatives themselves. Blumenauer’s aide, Jon Bosworth, graduated from Oregon State University in 2015. This connection helped Chávez feel more comfortable sharing her story with him.

“Being able to connect to the legislative aide (through OSU) was helpful in feeling welcome and more comfortable sharing,” Chávez said. She spoke to the need for DACA to be upheld and protected, and provided Bosworth with her personal narrative, as well as a letter from another DACA recipient in Oregon.

Bosworth, as an extension of Blumenauer, agreed with much of what the lobbyists had to say and expressed support for their causes. While this is what the team’s goal was, some members felt that the conversation needs to go further.

“We either have the economic rational argument, or we have the moral one. We need to find a way to navigate and negotiate among those two,” Chávez said. “There is some support and understanding, but we need to do more.”

Ultimately, Chávez felt her first day of lobbying was insightful. Her biggest takeaways were the high-energy environment in the capitol buildings, as well as the need for more student engagement on a larger scale.

“It is important to understand the language and the policies and how they affect the communities we all come from,” Chávez said. Chávez is looking forward to continue her lobbying on Thursday.

A Corvallis connection

On the wall in Rep. Peter DeFazio’s reception area hang banners from all the universities in Oregon, but most prominent throughout his office are OSU Beaver and University of Oregon Duck gear. A U of O graduate, DeFazio now represents Oregon’s Fourth District, which comprises Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane and Linn counties, as well most of Benton and Josephine counties. Both OSU and the U of O fall under this district.

The second sub-group made up of León Guerrero, Koehn and Lax met with DeFazio himself. The group talked about issues pertaining to sexual assault prevention and the protection of students who entered the country illegally. 

“DeFazio was pretty receptive of our message,” Lax said. “Halfway through my story, he cut me off and said ‘You know, I love it, I support it, let’s go forward.’”

The meeting ended after an agreeable discussion that ended with DeFazio pledging further support for both issues.

Power from the bottom up

President Trump’s request for all senators to attend a White House briefing on North Korea caused Sen. Ron Wyden to be an hour late to his scheduled meeting. Wyden’s office was flexible and found a legislative aide to meet with the group while they waited for Wyden to return.

Logsdon, Khalife and Bennett spent their time with the legislative aide pushing for action related to sexual assault on college campuses and college affordability, with a specific focus on Pell Grants.

When Wyden returned to the Dirkrsen Senate Office Building, he joined the lobby team.

“What questions do you have?” Wyden asked as he took his seat.

Logsdon and the others discussed their role as students and asked what they could do to help push legislation and further their causes. Wyden responded by telling them that change comes more from the bottom up with grassroots movements, instead of from the top down. Wyden could only meet with the group for around 10 minutes before he had to leave for another meeting.

“The first day of lobbying went great,” Logsdon said. “We picked a very great week to come visit D.C.—there is a lot of action. This translates to a very educational experience overall.”

Logdson and the rest of the team have a full second day of lobbying lined up for Thursday.