Students, Alumni and Faculty meet with State Legislators for UH System Day
Students, alumni, faculty and staff from all four schools in the University of Houston System came together for the first UH System Day. Photo by Elisa Morales: The Signal.
Elisa Morales The Signal
For the first time representatives from all four schools in the University of Houston System participated as advocates during UH System Day held in Austin, Feb. 13.
The four attending schools consisted of the University of Houston-Clear Lake, University of Houston, University of Houston-Victoria and University of Houston-Downtown.
Nearly 200 students, alumni, faculty and staff traveled to Austin and visited the Capitol for an opportunity to meet with state legislators and discuss four major points of interest to the UH System in the 83rd Texas Legislative Session.
These points for discussion included: Equitable Funding, Building Texas’ Future Today, Truth and Transparency in Tuition, and Keeping Texas a Tier One State.
UHCL students’ concerns for the legislators focused on downward expansion and tuition revenue bonds in preparation for the incoming freshman and sophomore students scheduled to arrive the fall 2014.
The attendees from UHCL and UH met at 7 a.m. at the UH Alumni Center to catch the three buses that would take them on their three-hour trip to Austin, where they were joined by UHD and UHV representatives. The buses were filled with representatives discussing their expectations for the day.
“I’m excited to actually have one-on-one interaction with the representatives and get a chance to represent my school because you don’t get that opportunity all the time,” said Sarah Seyd, biology undergraduate at UHD.
Upon arrival at the Capitol, everyone proceeded to the Senate Gallery, where Sen. Rodney Ellis D-TX, a native Houstonian, recognized and introduced all UH System Universities before everyone present in the chamber.
Thereafter, all boarded the buses to make their way to lunch at the Scholz Garten. UH System Chancellor Renu Khator stood before all the UH System representatives during the luncheon and spoke about her enthusiasm and support before everyone once again departed for the Capitol.
“We have come a long way because of what all have done together,” Khator said. “We have been gaining momentum, we have been gaining progress. We will get the recognition that we deserve, nationally and internationally.”
To begin the legislative visits, all of the participating students separated into 20 teams. Each team was to visit with six different assigned legislators out of the 120 in Texas. Gift bags with UH Cougar beanie babies and a brochure of the UH System Legislative Agenda were given to each team to present to each assigned legislator.
“I believe it is very important for our state legislators to actually meet and talk with the students from UHCL, UH, UHD and UHV,” said William Staples, president of UHCL. “Each student has a unique story about the impact of higher education on themselves and their family.”
During the course of an hour and a half, teams scattered through the Capitol searching for legislators, chiefs of staff or other office personnel they were assigned to meet.
While some of the teams were able to talk to a legislator, many were only able to meet with office staff. However, not being able to have the face-to-face interaction with a legislator did not discourage Carla Bradley, vice-president of the Student Government Association at UHCL, from retaining the excitement she felt when the trip first began.
“Even though it was only one person that we were able to speak to on behalf of UHCL, it’s like a ripple effect, you start it and it spreads,” Bradley said. “It leaves an imprint on their minds saying these people do care about their school and the system.”
Everyone met in front of the Capitol while they waited for buses to arrive for the drive home. Bradley’s face indicated exhaustion, but expressed satisfaction, as she sat in the lawn talking to other students about what was achieved that day.
“I feel very accomplished because instead of coming as just one individual school, we came together as a system, giving us a bigger voice.” Bradley said. “I do believe we accomplished what we came here for.”