Students encouraged to lobby for state funding increase during OU Day at the Capitol

Trevor Tyle, Campus Editor

The voices of students and faculty members will be heard loud and clear on Tuesday, April 10, when members of the Oakland University community travel to Lansing for the 21st annual OU Day at the Capitol.

The event will offer students the opportunity to listen to guest speakers, observe the State Senate and House in session and meet with elected officials. This year, students are being encouraged to lobby for additional state funding for public universities across the state of Michigan.

A recent online petition co-authored by public universities throughout Michigan argues that they currently do not receive enough funding from the state government.

“Over the last decade, the State of Michigan has effectively disinvested from its public universities, while the Corrections budget has continued to climb,” it reads. “This does not reflect the pride that we take in each of our public universities. Rather, this reveals a disinterest and undervaluing of learning and of the students at these institutions.”

With the decline of the Michigan prison population, students want to allocate some of the state’s nearly $2 billion budget for correctional facilities to increasing funding for higher education.

“We’re asking for about 1.5 [percent] of that budget, which is only $21 million,” said Student Congress President-elect Ryan Fox. “Which is like, change for them, but for us, it’s a monumental amount of money.”

The petition, however, is simply a “piece of a larger movement,” according to Fox.

Last week marked the start of OUSC’s letter campaign, which allows students to sign preformatted letters in support of increasing state funding. These letters will be sent to their respective State House Representatives. Participants will be sent a letter around August telling them whether their representative voted to increase state funding.

“That way, they can make a more educated choice when the time comes,” Fox said.

However, according to current OUSC President Lena Mishack, the best way to address the issue is meeting face-to-face with legislators during OU Day at the Capitol.

“I think that really shows a power when an entire school goes to push for things that matter to them,” she said. “You’re speaking one-on-one with your state legislators, so you have their attention, you have ample time to communicate what issues matter to you, and I think, also, it’s just a really great educational experience to just learn more about how our state government runs.”

Mishack hopes support will extend beyond students, with special guests such as OU President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz expected to speak at the event.

“I’m hoping she will say something about [increasing state funding], too, as I know she has a lot of influence,” Mishack said. “I know she herself actually has been going to the capitol to advocate for an increase to OU’s allocation, especially because we’re the least in the state right now.”

However, both Mishack and Fox implored students to reach out to legislators, whether they can attend OU Day at the Capitol or not.

“A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of politics is just controlled by one angry person going and talking to somebody with power,” Fox said. “People don’t realize how powerful just going to sit with their reps is. […] OU needs OU Day at the Capitol because it keeps us in legislators’ minds. In order for us to stay prevalent and on-stage, we have to go out there and fight for ourselves.”

For more information, students can contact OUSC via email at [email protected].