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ABTS Sets Annual Legislative Platform At Winter Conference

The Association of Big Ten Students met over the weekend at Michigan State University to benchmark between student governments and set the organization’s annual legislative platform, which the student governments will advocate for at their Big Ten on the Hill conference in the spring.

Representatives from student governments around the conference passed five platform resolutions and a federal legislative agenda for the organization. Here’s what you should know about each:

Support of Affirmative Consent Policies

This resolution urges Big Ten universities to implement affirmative consent policies on their campuses and urges the states in which Big Ten universities reside to adopt an affirmative consent standard into law. Pennsylvania has already proposed legislating an affirmative consent policy as part of Governor Tom Wolf’s “It’s On Us PA” campaign.

Support of the Creation of Middle Eastern/North African Identity Category

ABTS recognizes the need for a ME/NA category on Big Ten documents that collect racial and ethnic demography data and supports efforts to implement the creation of such a category. The organization encourages Big Ten schools to start working on creating the ME/NA category and charges student body presidents with sending the resolution to stakeholders like university presidents, provosts, offices of the registrar, and admissions boards.

Support of a Clean DREAM Act

Student body presidents from across the Big Ten will draft a statement in support of a clean DREAM Act to protect undocumented students at universities around the conference to be sent to legislators in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate by February 19.

Support of the Affordable College Textbook Act

ABTS supports universities increasing use of Open Educational Resources and other means of driving down the cost of textbooks for students, including the Affordable College Textbook Act of 2017. The organization will send a letter to legislators on behalf of student governments around the conference supporting this legislation, which was jointly introduced as H.R. 3840 and S. 1864.

Encouraging Expansion of Eligible Locations for SNAP on Big Ten College Campuses

ABTS recommends Big Ten universities pursue “creative ways” to address student food insecurity, including steps to expand eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and allowing students to pay with SNAP at campus food retailers. Big Ten schools should also pursue creating or expanding campus food pantries, community gardens, and food recovery programs. Penn State’s on-campus food bank, Lion’s Pantry, was funded by the 2017 Class Gift.

Federal Legislative Agenda

  • Repeal Student Level Record Ban — College Transparency Act (S. 1121/H.R. 2434)
  • Simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Simplify Federal Student Loans and Support Loan Forgiveness/Repayment Programs
  • Invest in CCAMPIS
  • Strengthen Voter Registration Requirement
  • Exempt Qualified Student Loan Programs from the Federal Preferred Lender Requirements
  • End Government Profits on Student Loans
  • Know Before You Owe Federal Student Loan Act
  • Pass the RISE Act — Respond Innovate Support and Empower Students with Disabilities Act
  • Pass the Federal Perkins Loan Program Extension Act of 2017 (H.R. 2482)
  • Pass the Affordable College Textbook Act (S.1864/H.R.3840)
  • Pass a Permanent Legislative Solution to the Rescission of DACA
  • Pass the Abby Honold Act (S. 2266/H.R.4720)
  • Pass the Housing for Homeless Students Act
  • Pass the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017 (H.R. 2876)
  • Implement Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance (S. 796/H.R. 795)

Representatives from the University Park Undergraduate Association did not sponsor or co-sponsor any of the legislation, even though some items on the platform passed were co-sponsored by up to eight schools.

The ABTS executive board and Big Ten student body presidents also discussed the possibility of making ABTS a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which would allow the organization to raise money, have a bank account, and provide better programming and marketing for initiatives and lobbying efforts, according to ABTS Executive Director Samantha Geisinger.

UPUA members were unable to attend the conference due to risk management recommendations related to driving in inclement weather over the weekend. The only Penn State student to attend was Geisinger, who has served as the organization’s Executive Director for the past two years.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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