Student government leaders from the four state-related schools could not reach agreement on the future actions and mission of the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Students at its conference on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Temple Student Government, along with representatives from Lincoln University, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, convened on Main Campus to discuss the annual PASS rally at the state capital in Harrisburg, Pa., and the direction of the association.
“We all agree we need to move forward. It is just a matter of how we do that,” TSG Student Body President David Lopez said. “I think what we came down to was taking on a role beyond just college affordability, tuition and budget cuts.”
The four schools elected TSG Director of Government Affairs Darin Bartholomew as the interim executive director of PASS, voted to have an advocacy day in Harrisburg for all the student government leaders and decided to table the decision about the annual rally until after the spring conference.
“All and all it did go well,” Lopez said. “Not as well as initially planned and we went in there with an agenda set, but we kind of veered away from it a little bit.”
One of the major discussions on Saturday was the continuation of PASS rally at the state capital, which was sheduled for Jan. 31, 2013. Lopez said the rally will no longer be held that day, if it all.
“For Lincoln and Temple, we have these rallies and they mean so much and a lot of students show up for them because we do know how to rally our forces,” Lopez said. “We both were very positive and optimistic about what this rally could be by changing it, changing the format, and making it more positive and that way it will allow for us to be a little bit more effective in our messaging. But, that was not the same agenda that Pittsburgh or Penn State came in with.”
Pittsburgh Student Government Governmental Relations Chair Robert Beecher said that it is difficult to recruit students to make the five-hour bus ride to Harrisburg, and his peers at Pittsburgh have been disappointed after departing rallies each of the past two years.
Beecher and Penn State University Park Undergraduate Association Vice President Katelyn Mullen agreed that a rally with a large number of students combined with the negative messages of the past rallies is not the most effective method in contacting legislators.
“Is it best that every time a legislator sees PASS, it is a massive group of students with the same message,” Mullen said in the conference. “That’s not how we appeal to them.”
Senior Vice President for Governmental, Community and Public Affairs Ken Lawrence offered his advice to the association on Saturday afternoon.
“Unless you are going to have a good rally, don’t have one,” Lawrence said.
However, Lawrence recognized that, “students coming to Harrisburg is important and does make a difference.”
At the end of the conference, the group compromised and decided to hold off on the decision to hold the annual rally until after the spring conference and, if the rally is held, delay the rally until after Gov. Tom Corbett presents the state budget.
“It came down to whether or not we were going to have a rally and if it was going to be effective overall and how it was going to work,” Lopez said. “It was not necessarily a decision Temple was favorable of, but it still happened because we did need to reach some sort of compromise.”
PASS was formed after the 2010 November midterm elections by the four state-related schools to create open discussion about state funding for higher education. The association has combatted appropriation cuts since then through advocacy including rallies.
At the fall conference, the representatives of the four schools agreed that the association needed to expand beyond just the rally and Bartholomew will facilitate this transition as the interim executive director.
Bartholomew is in charge of internal and external communications, organizing the conference and agenda items, and leading the creation of the new mission statement, constitution, and bylaws.
At the conclusion of the conference, Lopez and his administration felt disappointed in the outcome, but knew Temple would still find a way to advocate for higher education funding.
“We will do our best to make sure that if a PASS rally does not happen, we have something to replace it, something to compensate, and something to get our students just as active and just as involved,” Lopez said.
The four state-related schools will convene in late January or early February 2013 at Penn State to vote on the rally and the future mission of the association.
Laura Detter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.