Photo Courtesy of Brandi Freeman
Southern Oregon University student representatives attended the OSA rally last Thursday.
Four students from Southern Oregon University turne out to be the only represenatives of our school to rally on the Capitol steps in Salem last Thursday.
Although about 70 students planned to attend and ride up to Salem Thursday morning, a mid-winter snowstorm prevented students from going.
Two members of Associated Students of Southern Oregon University and two other students drove up the night before to attend the rally and lobby legislators about four issues Oregon Student Association is supporting.
Junior Criminology Justice major Brandi Freeman was one of the four who represented SOU at the rally. She said her and three other students arrived at the Capital at 8 a.m. on Thursday to prepare and practice lobbying different legislators and senators. Gathering in groups of four to five from 10 a.m. to noon the students walked up to different legislators and presented their issues to them and received positive and negative feedback.
“They were definitely happy,” said Freeman. “Some did support what we were talking about and some did not support anything over the governor’s budget.”
She said, however it was disappointing that many legislators were not willing to fill the $19 million gap in the OUS budget.
“I’m really surprised at the ones [senators] who don’t support [Governor’s budget],” said Freeman. “For me to hear they don’t support things like tuition equity hurts. I wish they all cared the same way.”
She said the legislators who do support funding for higher education were passionate about the money set aside for postsecondary education in the governor’s budget.
Freeman and over 500 other students attending the rally discussed four different issues on the governor’s budget; Funding and Tuition, the Shared Responsibility Model, Access to Student Assistance Programs In Reach of Everyone (ASPIRE), and Tuition Equity.
“I specifically talked about the Shared Responsibility Model and tuition equity,” said Freeman.
Freeman said she spent time before the rally to learn the four different issues explaining that it was important to “know their stuff” because the senators and legislators could easily call them out if they gave incorrect information.
“I was definitely nervous at the beginning [of lobbying],” said Freeman. “I wanted to make sure I understood the issues; I had to really study the issues. But after I talked to my first senator I was on fire.”
For Freeman, it was her first rally and said it was inspiring to see so many students come together for one cause.
“It was awesome to rally and to come together as one big Oregon university,” said Freeman. “It was amazing and really powerful.”
She said during the rally, students chanted out rally cries like “Teddy K, we say hey, education starts today,” and at one point they held out their empty wallets screaming “If you’re broke and you know it clap your hands.”
Junior and ASSOU vice president Kara Bradach attended the rally and said she had a positive experience and good feedback from the different legislators.
“[It was] my first time. There were students lobbying everywhere,” said Bradach. She said in the time they were given to lobby she was only able to talk to a few senators and that she wants to support higher education as much as she can.
“The Shared Responsibility Model is the only thing I can apply to my own life,” said Bradach.
She explained that she has been putting herself through school and she knows many family and friends who would benefit from the Shared Responsibility Model.
Freeman, like Bradach said she is most passionate about seeing the Shared Responsibility Model passed because she is also paying her way through college. Freeman said she often works 40 to 60 hour weeks to pay for tuition and other expenses, but last year, she made too much money and will not receive any grant support next year.
“I may not be able to graduate next year if I do not receive grant money,” said Freeman who usually gets about $4,000 a year. “If they don’t pass the Shared Responsibility Model then they are shutting the door on people who need it.”
Freeman said the Shared Responsibility Model will allow students like herself on the cusp between passing the income limit but needing that extra boost to help pay for school.
“It will still allow me to receive money even though I made more,” said Freeman.
Both Bradach and Freeman are encouraging students to continue to voice their opinion through letters and another rally OSA is sponsoring in March.
“The best thing to do is to support our school,” said Freeman. “All we’re asking is for students voices.”