Owls on the Hill Day, the annual event in which Temple students travel to Harrisburg to lobby state legislators for university funding, is to be held on April 14 – two weeks earlier than last year’s event was scheduled.
Temple canceled the trip in 2014 due to a lack of student sign-ups for the event, as the date was during finals week. Instead, online messages were used where students could directly message their state legislators to make their case.
“Last year, there were a lot of planning issues,” Matthew Hayden, the director of government affairs for Temple Student Government, said. “It just wasn’t smoothly run. … This year we wanted to try to put it in the middle of the month and make it more accessible to as many people as possible.”
Ken Lawrence, Temple’s senior vice president for government, community and public affairs, said the event was moved to an earlier date because of the graduation and finals schedules this year. Graduation is set to take place May 8, while finals week runs April 30 through May 6.
Lawrence said student involvement numbers could improve through the lower number of required training sessions for participation in Owls on the Hill Day.
“Last year, we had multiple training sessions,” Lawrence said. “This year we consolidated to one training session and are just trying to get the word out to as many students as possible.”
The first training session for Owls on the Hill Day was held yesterday. Two more are scheduled for this week – one on April 7 at noon, the other on April 9 at 6 p.m.
Hayden also said that in years past, students and organizers would arrive at the Pennsylvania State Capitol around noon, but will arrive around 10 a.m. for this upcoming trip.
Arriving later “didn’t give students the right amount of face time with members of the legislature,” Hayden said. “By that time they had all pretty much gone home for the day.”
By arriving earlier, “kids have those two to three hour interactions with the politicians,” he added.
The students will visit Harrisburg amid discussion among state lawmakers on Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal, which according to Lawrence, would increase Temple’s appropriation by $15.44 million. It would be the first increase for Temple in four years.
Previously, President Theobald visited the state legislature on March 24 to make his case for Temple to receive additional state funding. During the visit, Temple requested $146.9 million from the state – a $7 million or 5 percent increase from last year. Wolf’s budget, however, allotted for more funding for the school as the state General Assembly was recommended an 11 percent or the $15.44 million increase.
Under former Gov. Tom Corbett, approximately $30 million, or 19 percent, was cut from the university’s funding in 2010. Wolf said in his budget address in early March that he would restore half the cuts to higher education funding made under Corbett.
Lawrence said the Commonwealth appropriation for higher education is voted on separately from the state budget, and needs a two-thirds majority to pass, while the budget needs 50 percent.
“There are some members of the legislature that do not vote for any higher education appropriation,” Lawrence said. “I’m not going to name names, but there is a group of six to 10 that probably won’t vote for it.”
The goal of the event, Lawrence said, is to have as many students as possible be seen and heard by as many members of the legislatures as possible.
“There are 253 legislators in the state general assembly,” Lawrence said. “Each one gets a vote, so it’s important for [members of the general assembly] to see these students and hear what they have to say.”
“This is a great event for students to get involved and make a direct impact,” Lawrence added. “This is a way for students to be heard. For those that don’t think that this makes a difference, it does. It makes a huge difference.”
David Glovach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.