Last year, Gov. Chris Christie cut $130 million from state funds for higher education, according to The New York Times. After the cuts, Christie implemented a four-percent tuition cap. This year, a report issued by the governor’s task force suggests Christie will repeal it.
The Student Government’s Legal and Governmental Affairs committee has long been concerned with lobbying the state and will soon launch its most recent endeavor, its “Tell It Like It Is” campaign. The campaign, created by senior political science majors Brian Block and Thomas Little, is a grassroots response to state education cuts.
“(We) came up with the strategy to focus this year on personal stories,” said Block, vice president of L&G.
Block discussed the campaign at last week’s Student Government general body meeting. He described the impetus for “Tell It Like It Is.”
Block occasionally meets with New Jersey officials to lobby for budget reform. During those meetings, he decided he didn’t want to rattle off a list of statistics. He wanted to show lawmakers evidence of hardships students suffered because of the budget cuts, hoping that students’ stories would inspire them to action.
Though the campaign hasn’t officially launched yet, a Facebook page and word-of-mouth advertising brought in three student stories.
On Dec. 22, Block and Senator of Science Steve Kornas showed those stories to state officials. Assembly Budget Chair Louis Greenwald and Assembly Higher Education Chairwoman Pam Lampitt’s staff attended the hour-long meeting, Block told SG.
“They really liked the fact that we were able to present them with firsthand student accounts and photographic evidence of the damage budget cuts are causing to our college,” Block said. “Usually lobbyists get 30 minutes max with legislators, but we were able to keep them there for at least an hour … That shows something.”
SG will launch the campaign “full throttle” this semester, according to Block.
“We want students to tell it like it is without holding back,” Block said.
Block encourages students to submit their stories of leaky faucets, closed classes and broken gym equipment to the campaign.
“We need these stories so that lawmakers understand just how detrimental their cuts are to the future of New Jersey,” he said.
Students can submit personal stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the campaign’s Facebook page.
“(Students) can also attend L&G meetings at 8 p.m. on Tuesday nights in SSB 241 to tell us firsthand,” Block said. “We like testimony.”
Emily Brill can be reached at email@example.com.