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ABTS Sets Annual Legislative Platform, Moves Forward With Fiscal Sponsorship

The Association of Big Ten Students met at Purdue last month for its winter conference, agreeing on its legislative platform for the year and moving forward with plans for a fiscal sponsorship. Representatives from Penn State’s University Park Undergraduate Association were able to attend this year, after the university was blocked by risk management due to inclement weather in 2018.

The advocacy group, which (as the name suggests) represents Big Ten students, will lobby for these positions in Washington, DC at its annual Big Ten on the Hill conference in the spring.

Here’s what’s on the organization’s federal legislative agenda for this year:

Pass the Aim Higher Act

The Aim Higher Act is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that makes college education more affordable by increasing support for federal aid programs, including Pell Grants, TRIO, and GEAR UP (programs that help students succeed in college).

Pass the Affordable College Textbook Act

The Affordable College Textbook Act aims to reduce the cost of textbooks by expanding the use of Open Educational Resources. The act would create a grant program for institutions to expand the use of open textbooks for their students.

Pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018 would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that was in effect before December 2018, which instituted judicial tools to combat violence against women and give protection to survivors of abuse. This act would also prohibit the sale of firearms to those subject to protection orders or convicted of stalking.

Pass the Abby Honold Act

The Abby Honold Act would create a two-year pilot program for the
Department of Justice to award grants to police departments for training investigators on interviewing sexual assault victims. The bill promotes the use of trauma-informed techniques when responding to and acting on sexual assault crimes, hopes to make the process more comfortable and respectful for victims, and aims to make it more likely for assailants to face criminal charges.

Pass the Strengthening American Communities Act of 2018

The Strengthening American Communities Act would create a National Public Service Grant to provide funding for students at four-year schools who commit to three years of public service after graduation. A debt-free loan forgiveness program would also be enacted to expedite the loan forgiveness process and reduce the pressure of student loans.

Pass a Permanent Legislative Solution to the Rescission of DACA

The Dream Act of 2017 provides DACA-eligible individuals a path to citizenship, as well as stops the removal proceedings of those that meet the Dream Act requirements. The Act would also change rules that limit undocumented students’ and other immigrants’ abilities to access in-state tuition and financial aid from states and institutions. ABTS supports legislation that would protect DACA recipients from deportations, specifically the kinds of protections detailed in the Dream Act of 2017.

Reject the Department of Education’s Current Proposals to Changes in Title IX and Support Comprehensive Action that Holds Institutions Accountable for Acting on Reports of Sexual Misconduct

ABTS urges Congress to support policy on sexual misconduct that is survivor-focused and requires that colleges and universities investigate all instances of sexual misconduct that students report. The organization also encourages the Department of Education to implement the policy guidelines outlined in the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter.

Beyond setting the legislative agenda for the year, ABTS took another step towards the fiscal sponsorship it’s sought now for years.

The organization currently relies on funding from its delegate schools, which of course can be a burden on the student governments. The fiscal sponsorship from the National Campus Leadership Council (NCLC) would allow ABTS to manage and hold its own funds, with the help of a new executive board position for this purpose. Student body presidents are to vote on a contractual agreement with NCLC by the end of March.

ABTS also passed legislation as follows:

  • Supporting a change to the FDA’s MSM Donor Deferral Policy
  • Supporting the Bandana Project
  • Recognizing survivors of sexual assault through the “It’s On Us” Week of Action and Dear Colleague (2011) Letter
  • Endorsing the Strengthening American Communities Act of 2018
  • Supporting medical amnesty policies

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About the Author

Corrin Smucker

Corrin is double majoring in Spanish and Public Relations here at Penn State and is minoring in International Business. She is always excited to share with readers all Penn State has to offer, and what makes it the greatest school on the East Coast (or even the nation).

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