Nearly 100 students, alumni and administrators donned cherry and white striped shirts in Harrisburg Tuesday, March 19 to advocate for higher education funding.
The third annual Owls on the Hill Day, a part of Cherry and White Week, saw the biggest turnout the event has seen despite the governor’s proposal of flat funding for Temple.
“Overall, I was just impressed and pleased with the performance of the Temple students,” Temple Student Government Student Body President David Lopez said. “I think we had diverse groups go in and speak to representatives and it just goes to show that telling your Temple story can take you a lot further than discussing just facts and numbers.”
Three buses of participants from main campus and one bus from Ambler Campus departed just after 9 a.m. and were met by Senior Vice President of Government, Community and Public Affairs Ken Lawrence and Public Affairs and Policy Manager Andrew McGinley at Temple’s Harrisburg office.
The participants were then broken into groups, which were led by students who had completed the Owl Advocates program and entered the capitol at noon.
Owls on the Hill Day gives students and alumni the opportunity to connect with the state representatives who vote on the university’s appropriation, such as Representative Tim Briggs from Montgomery County.
A group of five students led by TSG Director of Recruitment and Retention Cree Moore met with Briggs, who received a degree from Beasley School of Law in 2004.
The two parties discussed the importance of higher education funding in general, Gov. Tom Corbett’s approach to higher education funding, and the importance of student advocates.
“What you guys are doing really makes a big difference in the grand scheme of things,” Briggs said to the group of students, adding, “ we all want to get reelected, so if constituents contact us, it does make a difference.”
This year, Lawrence and Lopez extended an invitation to alumni to join because they recognized an opportunity to strengthen the message.
“[Lawrence] noticed the student success and thought that it would be good for alumni to come too,” Alumnus and Director of Community and Neighborhood Affairs Andrea Swan said.
Although Lopez sees the day as a success, the day was not free of obstacles.
The third bus leaving from Main Campus was late departing and prevented Lawrence and McGinley from giving students a more comprehensive overview of what to expect and how to approach legislatures.
Furthermore, a great number of state representatives were meeting with their respective political parties in caucus while the groups of participants were in the capitol.
“It is difficult because there is not time you can go in there and expect all the legislatures to be in their office. We know that and we are fully aware of that, but it comes down to more important messaging and vision. So, we find it really important that the legislatures see us and know that Temple is in the building,” Lopez said.
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, an alumnus and former TSG speaker of the General Assembly, noticed that university students were in Harrisburg and asked to meet with a few students. Lawrence made sure Cawley had a chance to speak with a group that included Lopez and Vice President of Services Julian Hamer.
“That proves that we obviously had an impact. If we are just in the Capitol building walking around and the lieutenant governor realizes that we are there and says, ‘I would like to talk to a few students’ clearly one of our goals has been accomplished in the end,” Lopez said.
Overall, Lopez and students such as senior communications major Maryanne Hayde view the third annual Owls on the Hill Day as a success because not only did they speak with a handful of representatives, but they also made the presence of the Temple student body known in Harrisburg.
“It’s our future and it is in our hands,” Hayde said. “Whether you speak to staff or the representative, it means a lot to take the time to speak to them.”
Laura Detter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.