Owls on the Hill Day, an annual excursion that sent students to lobby in Harrisburg, was recently canceled by Temple after students responded that the date’s proximity to final exams would make it too difficult to go.
The trip was scheduled for April 29, and several Owl Academy sessions were held to train students how to effectively lobby elected officials for greater state funding for the university.
Andrew McGinley, public affairs and policy manager, helped organize the sessions and the expected trip. McGinley said students responded early on and made it clear there would likely be a scheduling conflict.
“We proceeded anyway,” McGinley said. “Students were eager to be there and learn about the process. We wouldn’t have planned it if we thought no one would be able to go.”
In lieu of sending students to Harrisburg, McGinley said electronic personal messages will be sent to every state legislator. The new event, called Virtual Owls on the Hill Day, began Tuesday. McGinley hopes, despite students’ absence from physically speaking with legislators, that the messages can be even more effective than the originally planned trip.
He said those wanting to send notes will be provided with talking points to effectively craft a message in “ways that share the Temple story and make it personal.”
Additionally, he said the electronic messages will allow more people to advocate and get their story out to legislators than if they had taken the trip to Harrisburg.
In 2011, after Gov. Tom Corbett announced a 50 percent reduction in appropriations for state-related universities, McGinley said Temple saw the most political action yet.
“We sent 20,000 messages that year,” he said. “That’s much more than one visit to the capitol would have done.”
As a former aide to state Rep. Matt Bradford, McGinley said he knows what it’s like for legislators to get messages from advocates. “They read them, they see them,” he said.
The software used for Virtual Owls on the Hill Day allows users to search elected officials and message them directly. McGinley said it was made to be a simple process available to everyone.
As part of Cherry and White Week, McGinley said there will still be a student presence at the capitol despite Owls on the Hill Day’s cancellation.
“There’s going to be researchers, a music group, and many more students, all interacting with elected officials and getting their message out,” McGinley said.
Joe Gilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.