The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday June 26th

Students Mingle With Legislators

The UNC Association of Student Governments organized the event to urge state lawmakers to increase need-based financial aid, raise faculty salaries by 6 percent and approve a student vote on the Board of Governors.

The day started at 12:30 p.m. with a pep rally. UNC-system President Molly Broad, ASG President Andrew Payne and several student body presidents gave speeches at the rally describing the proposals and encouraging the students to work together in promoting the issues.

Students responded by breaking out in cheers whenever their school was mentioned or they heard something inspirational.

Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, who introduced the House student BOG vote bill, told the crowd its presence would make legislators listen.

"There are 170 (legislators) that you must touch today," Adams said. "When you show up at the doors of a politician, they pay attention."

But the event was not without its problems.

Student turnout fell far below ASG's attendance goal of 700 students -- a goal that has been decreased several times since planning began for the event.

Only a handful of UNC-Chapel Hill students showed up at the event.

UNC-CH Student Body President Brad Matthews, who attended only part of the event, attributed UNC-CH's poor attendance to Sen. John Edwards' campus visit and student elections.

The students, who ate boxed lunches provided by ASG after the rally, split up and visited legislators to discuss the proposals.

But about half of the students did not meet any legislators at all. They spent their time walking around the capitol and watching the state legislature in action.

Students who did talk with lawmakers said the meetings were productive and interesting.

Jimmy Graham, a Western Carolina University freshman, said Sen. Charles Carter, D-Buncombe, questioned if western universities would be represented on an equal basis with large system schools. "He gave us the other side of the issues," Graham said.

After meeting with Rep. Gene Arnold, R-Nash, Elizabeth City senior Tremaine Roberts said, "(Arnold) is for financial aid but against the BOG bill. He said that students have no experience. But overall, the meeting was productive, and he listened to us."

The legislators likewise had good reactions regarding the students.

Rep. Gene Wilson, R-Alleghany, said all the students seemed enthusiastic about the issues. "Participation always makes an impact," he said. "I support (the BOG vote bill) 100 percent. (Students) need a voice."

Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange, echoed Wilson, saying the student presence was wonderful. "It's beneficial to have the students come talk," he said.

An ice cream social was arranged afterwards for students and legislators.

About 10 legislators showed up for ice cream, most skipping out after grabbing their favorite flavor.

Payne, snacking on vanilla ice cream, said the day was excellent.

"We got most of the legislators. The ASG has had some stumbling blocks, but this wipes out any doubt that it is not a credible institution," Payne said, adding that there were some problems that could have been fixed such as poor publicity and scheduling problems.

"We need to find a day later in the semester (next year), when students would be less preoccupied with midterm exams," he said. "The next ASG president also needs to start prepping for this beginning in the summer."

Charles Lawley, who helped organize the event, also said there were certain areas that needed more work. "We started too late with the planning," he said. "We were not made aware till the end how many people were going to be here. Just knowing what's going on in all the campuses and planning accordingly would make the next one all the better."

Tosha McDougal, an N.C. A&T graduate student who was watching the House in session, said the event was disorganized but inspirational. "There needs to be more organization amongst the schools, not just within," she said. "The pep rally, though, was very effective."

Matthews said the day was a way for the campuses to work together. "This showed that there are systemwide issues that we can all come together for and work towards."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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