Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Summer Re-cap: Starting the Year Off

Welcome back to school. I hope you enjoyed your summer. I enjoyed myself but kept busy working on ways to improve the campus. Here are just a few of the highlights from the summer:

Cost of Higher Education
I spent much of my summer working on this issue. I met with over a dozen state senators and delegates to discuss the importance of funding higher education. I went to all but one of the (then) Hogan Commission meetings to show that student presence on this issue lasts year round.
On Capitol Hill, I lobbied several Congressional offices, including the Office of the Majority Leader, both Senators from Maryland, and others to fight for legislation to alleviate student loan debt burden. Joined by fellow members of the SGA as well as countless student leaders from across the country, we successfully defeated the highly detrimental, Sallie-Mae backed Nelson-Burr Amendment in the Senate and passed some of the most substantial pieces of federal higher education legislation since the GI Bill in 1944. I had the privilege of being asked by Senator Kennedy- who sponsored the Senate version- to join him and speak at his press conference along with Senators Bingaman, Brown, Sanders, and Murray. The SGA has signed on to two important letters sent to all Members of Congress pushing that the legislation quickly come out of conference committee so that students and families can benefit from the $17.3-$19 billion the legislation will yield in grant and loan programs. Check out the first letter and an article from the Center for American Progress' Campus Progress on our site.

I have worked hard to continue the momentum and pressure we started last year at our housing protest on McKeldin Mall. It is still proving how important it was. Over the summer, the Board of Regents and the University finally agreed on a public-private partnership on South Campus that will add at least 400 beds. I have lobbied the Mayor and City Council, as well as some County Council members Eric Olson and Tom Dernoga to prioritize housing. I have met with University administrators and developers to work on seriously increasing beds on- and off-campus. I am also working to develop a long-term strategy to increase student beds in the area by 5,000 before my term ends in May.

Voter Registration
We spent a lot of time working on voter registration during the summer. Matt Stern who led the summer registration efforts led an organizational push to register upperclassman living off-campus. After several meetings leading back to last school year, we finally came up with a plan to get registrations on every resident student's bed when they came to campus with a self-addressed envelope. I am proud to announce that after a week of events where we registered students including Terp Market and the Hillel Opening Barbecue, we pulled in over 200 registrations last week. We need to continue this push and I hope you will join me in this important effort.

*In a meeting with VP of Administrative Affairs, Doug Duncan, I pushed for a student focus group to mirror the Community Steering Committee. The group will have its second meeting tonight and as the sole undergraduate on the Community Steering Committee, I am thrilled we are able to widen the scope of student input on this historic project.
*I also successfully fought over the summer for language to be added to the College Park Local Advisory Council's by-laws to make all efforts to include a student. This newly formed committee was in need of a student voice and I am glad we have it.
*I wrote a letter to the County Council and County Executive Jack Johnson opposing a cell-phone tax that would increase the tax from 8% to 11% and I believe it unfairly targeted college students who use cell phones as their primary phone.
*I made presentations to most of the Orientation groups to try to get to know all new students.
*I met with representatives of the Urban Debate Leagues from Miami-Dade, Baltimore, and DC and have put them in touch with students on campus to work to get students involve and perhaps eventually expand this monumental program to campus.
*We held our Kickoff event on Chapel Field and I was delighted by the turnout. Hundreds of students came out to a great event. I spent over 2 hours in the dunk tank due to how popular it was, which I hope was not an indication of my popularity on campus.
*I had my first Friday in the Baltimore Room from 1-2 pm. I encourage you to come out and let me know what is going on with you and what you want me to work on.

I am working very hard to advocate for you, but I cannot do it without your help. I try to be at as many different events as possible so please do not hesitate to come up to me, introduce yourself and say hello. And if I am not at your event, drop me a line and invite me. I'd love to come! Thank you for allowing me to have the great honor of serving you. It has been a pleasure and I hope to continue to work together to make this campus better.

My very best,


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