The uphill climb
Students confront politicans on state support
After snow forced the event to be rescheduled, about 10 student participants finally made it down to the capitol last Wednesday for Rams Day on the Hill.
Taylor Whitelow, a junior finance major, was one of the main organizers of the event and said it was a success.
“I think we made really good progress on letting legislators know that we’re in the middle of a serious budget crisis and we really need more monetary support,” said Whitelow, who is the Student Government Association’s director of political affairs.
Assistant Vice President for Government Relations Mark Smith helped the group organize the event. He said rescheduling caused turnout to be lower than expected, but the event still “had nice representation.”
“I think they were hoping for a few more (participants) … but they got around; they met the legislation and they knew that VCU was there and that’s the good thing,” Smith said.
Whitelow, however, said he was pleased with the turnout.
“Ten was a little better than I expected,” Whitelow said. “I thought it was going to be a little lower than that.”
Whitelow said the group was most concerned about Senate Bill 15, which would issue bonds to finance revenue-producing capital projects at state universities, and House Bill 732, which would put a limitation on eligibility for instate tuition.
“House Bill 732 got tabled, so it was a success before we even got there,” Whitelow said.
Of all the legislators who students spoke to, Whitelow said Delegate Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, was the most relatable.
“She is a VCU alumni, so it was much easier to talk to somebody that really had an understanding of the university and all the things that go on there,” Whitelow said.
Whitelow said his experience speaking to Delegate James “Jimmie” Massie, R-Richmond, was a good one.
“His legislative aide was a VCU basketball fan, so we had common ground from the get go,” Whitelow said.
The students who made it down to the hill enjoyed the experience, Whitelow said.
“Some were obviously a little nervous when they first went in and talked to the legislative aides or the actual delegate or senator,” Whitelow said, “but once they started having a little conversation they became comfortable. For a lot of people it was a good learning experience, going into an unfamiliar environment and doing something good for the university.”
Gabriel Walker, a senior marketing major and the SGA president, said it was important for students to go to the capitol in order to “express that they’re adamant about wanting change to occur in the state.”
“We have probably one of the highest instate populations out of all the universities in Virginia,” Walker said. “Legislators should be looking out for the best interests of their constituents, which are us, the students.”
Smith said students should get involved in local politics because, no matter what their career track, the experience is beneficial for their professional future.
“If nothing else, it’s a civic commitment, but longer term, their professional associations are going to need capable and talented people to work with the legislative folks on these matters,” Smith said.