Due to a reporting error, the original version of this editorial incorrectly states that the Association of Student Governments’ last advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., in January 2009 cost the association $26,000, with costs from participants bringing the total to more than $50,000. The trip cost the association $6,000. Other expenses were paid for by participants. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
The Association of Student Governments deserves credit for trying to have its voice heard in Washington, D.C. But in a time of steep budget cuts, the steep cost of lobbying trips to the capital — paired with the matching funds schools provide — is an unneeded luxury that provides few, if any, meaningful returns. At its meeting this weekend, the ASG can save its money — and breath — by voting in favor of a bill that would restrict its lobbying to the state level.
The “Keep it Local” bill is sponsored by Kevin Kimball, who lost a narrow election to the current ASG president Atul Bhula late last year. If passed, this amendment would not allow ASG to send student groups outside of the state of North Carolina to advocate for the UNC system.
Cited in the bill is a quote from the current president in which he states that he wants to move “to the national level.” The language in this bill suggests that Atul’s goal is a bad idea.
In January 2009, the organization spent $26,000 to send a group to the nation’s capital. This money was then matched by the schools that were being represented for a total of more than $50,000. But what has really come from these expensive trips?
Delegate Kimball believes ASG’s power is limited on the national level and that trips are largely ineffective for the organization. The bill shows Kimball’s belief that UNC-system students would be better represented if money would be spent lobbying the state government.
Kimball believes ASG has made great strides on the state level over the past few years while very little progress has been made on the national level. Locally, ASG successfully lobbied to get a student representative on the Board of Governors. No significant changes have come from national lobbying campaigns.
If ASG would like to lobby a voice on the national level, they could still contact the state’s House delegation and senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan in their state offices.
This bill does not restrict ASG’s lobbying ability, even though the members who enjoyed the lavish trips to Washington might disagree. Instead, it forces the organization to spend students’ money more efficiently in order to get the most benefit for the universities.
By choosing a local focus, ASG could continue to make noticeable and important gains for students. ASG needs to work for students. This bill goes a long way in proving that they are making a determined effort to make sure they always do.
While UNC-system schools are faced with budget cuts, it is especially necessary for ASG to strive for more efficiency. At this point, ASG’s power should be restricted to the state level.
Sizable steps have already been made, and the proposed “Keep it Local” bill stands to set the association up for more targeted and effective strides in the future.