Owls on the Hill Day cut due to scheduling conflict in capitol

To replace lobbying trip, administrators ask supporters to send letters to state reps.

Administrators announced last week that Owls on the Hill Day would be canceled and instead students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff are being asked to electronically submit personal letters to lawmakers advocating for Temple’s state appropriations.

Andrew McGinley, public affairs and policy manager, said many of the students who wanted to go were unable to because of the event’s proximity to final exams.

Owls on the Hill Day was originally planned to have students personally meet with lawmakers on April 29 to lobby for state appropriations.

The annual Cherry and White Week events were planned for a later date than is typical in the past due to scheduling conflicts at the State Capitol building, McGinley said.

The previous two years’ Cherry and White Weeks were held in late March.

“The scheduling is beyond our control,” McGinley said. “It’s based on space availability in the Capitol Building. We use a lot of space during that week and there’s lots of other unions and charities and other groups that also want space in the capitol building. So it got pushed back.”

Other Cherry and White Week events include an academic presentation in Harrisburg by the Institute for Public Affairs, followed by art and music students as well as researchers presenting to lawmakers. These events will still be held on April 28 and 30, respectively.

McGinley said the letters don’t need to be long or formal, just personal.

“Elected officials want to hear from constituents,” McGinley said. “This year we’re asking people to just write a note… via email.”

McGinley said the switch is not expected to be a permanent decision.

Outgoing Student Body President Darin Bartholomew, who worked heavily in organizing the event in the past, declined to comment.

The new electronic format for Owls on the Hill Day will not be largely exclusive to students as it was in the past visits to Harrisburg, something McGinley said he sees as a benefit.

“When you talk about Owls on the Hill [Day] it’s really been student driven,” McGinley said. “We’ve had alumni participation. But now it’s asking people to take a day off from work. It’s asking people to travel to Harrisburg. It’s a lot. So this way, more people from our alumni community are really engaged, our students, our faculty, our staff and Temple parents can really easily say, ‘Hey, this matters to me.’”

In 2011, Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a 50 percent cut to Temple’s funding but after intense lobbying by students and university representatives, the cuts were reduced to 15 percent, or a $25 million drop in commonwealth appropriations. Every year since then, Temple’s commonwealth funding has stayed level at $139.9 million. McGinley urged students to not take these level-funding years for granted.

“We all know that the legislative process can change at the drop of a hat,” McGinley said. “We have students who struggle to pay for tuition and we have students who work a lot and we all know what Temple’s trying to do to deal with affordability issues. But we also all know that if we received more state funding, the issues wouldn’t be as bad.”

Marcus McCarthy can be reached at marcus.mccarthy@temple.edu or on Twitter @marcusmccarthy6.

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