Presidential Profile: Lauren L’Ecuyer, Northern Arizona University

This March, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed Northern Arizona University (NAU) Student Body President Lauren L’Ecuyer to the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees NAU, University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. The Board allows only one student to join the governing body to help supervise, coordinate, manage and regulate the university system for two years. Now, Lauren is looking forward to continuing that passion by representing more than 180,000 Arizona public university students. We spoke to Lauren about the new role and what it meant to represent the student voice on a system decision-making level.


NCLC: How does it feel to be a Student Body President on your campus and student regent on the Arizona Board of Regents?

Lauren L’Ecuyer: It was an incredible honor to be elected as the Student Body President almost a year ago and I am reminded of what a great opportunity it is each and every day to serve the students of NAU. The tasks I have each day change, and the roles I play in the position range from the manager to the policy writer to the facilitator of conversations. The role has brought me more joy this year than I could have ever imagined it would.

Being appointed to the Board of Regents as the Student Regent is a different experience to be appointed instead of elected. The pressure is just as high, but the process is much different. Having the opportunity to interview with the Governor and meet with the Arizona Senators today, is extremely special. I know the next two years will be full of learning experiences and exciting new opportunities.


NCLC: How did this opportunity with Arizona Board of Regents come to be?

LL: When it came time for NAU to select the Student Regent, I had no intention of putting my name in the pool of applicants, however as the process moved along, I was encouraged by some professors to take the opportunity. I eventually decided that being a Student Regent encompasses what I am passionate about. It is the combination of the things that I enjoy: the people who I am serving and a location that I love.


NCLC: How did your institution’s administration advocate for your new position with the Board? 

LL: I had multiple conversations with our administration, and they were always extremely supportive of my decision to apply. Being the Student Body President has given me an opportunity to form relationships with the administration, so naturally, we were able to have these conversations frequently. My professors were the ones who really encouraged me to apply since they knew my personality and interests.


NCLC: How do you plan to represent state university students in this role?

LL: I have a year as a non-voting member, and I plan to use that time to educate myself on the Board, the issues at hand, and the scope of the work to be done. I have been fortunate enough to develop a small understanding of what the Board does and see them at work in general sessions, but I know there’s much more detail and specific work to learn. I can come in with a bunch of solutions, but I am reliant on the relationship building with the students at each campus and the discussions we can foster on campus.


NCLC: How will student voices be heard through your new position and how do you plan to present their concerns to the Board?

LL: I plan to develop a way for students to immediately voice concerns, comments or questions with student regents. I am planning trips to each of the Universities to work with the student governments on top priorities and issues that are occurring at their campuses and working to on a plan to educate all stakeholders on the reasoning for decisions at the University and the Board level. I think miscommunication often stems from a lack of good information, and I hope to be the person that bridges that gap for all stakeholders.


NCLC: What issues are most concerning to students within Arizona’s university system?

LL: I would say students are concerned about the rising rate of tuition and fees. Unfortunately, this is a commonality in all states, not just Arizona. We’ve seen significant cuts each year to the funding of our Universities by the legislature. I think we will see this conversation continue and develop over time, and hopefully, we can come to a creative solution for how to keep both the state and public higher education working.


NCLC: What tips do you have for other student leaders interested in working at the state level of higher ed?

LL: I would encourage student leaders to get involved and listen as much as possible. Working with the student government gave me a look into what the Arizona Board of Regents does, and developed my passion for the work they do. I did my homework, learned about the issues at hand, about the complexities of the issues they are dealing with, and listened. Listening to the cues and the things that these incredibly brilliant people are discussing is helpful to find the context.


NCLC: What piece of advice would you give to aspiring Student Body Presidents?

LL: I would advise aspiring Student Body Presidents to create a vision, whether that be how you want your office to run, what services you want to provide, or a campus-wide change you want to implement. See that vision, see it clearly, and dedicate yourself in full to achieving it.

I would also advise you to throw inhibitions aside when running, when developing this vision, and when acting as the President. There is no time for nervousness, no time for fear of the future, no time for slacking. Instead, trade that fear of the unknown for the adrenaline of what your vision could look like in real life, and trade the procrastination gene you might have a go-getter attitude!

 


Sec. DeVos wants to change Title IX. Here’s how to elevate student voice on gender equity laws

In fall 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded Obama era Title IX guidance. Shortly after, she issued interim guidelines in advance of a formal notice-and-comment process to rewrite federal rules. This post is intended to get you up to speed on how to elevate student voice as education officials decide the future of Title IX enforcement.

 

Background on Title IX

Title IX is a hugely consequential gender equity education law enacted in 1972. It is intended to protect students from sex discrimination. For a long time, it was closely associated with equal opportunity to participate in athletics. The courts have ruled that sexual assault and harassment are also forms of sex discrimination, obligating schools to take responsibility for preventing and quickly addressing any such issues on campus. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing Title IX policy.

Under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the Department of Education established guidance for how colleges should implement Title IX, clarifying the Department’s enforcement role. The best-known guidance came in 2011 in a “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) that detailed how the Department interpreted schools’ obligations under Title IX, enforce the policies, and support schools’ policy implementation.

 

What was in the interim guidelines?

The interim guidelines generally weaken students’ rights by giving colleges the option to deviate from well-researched best practices that were enforced under the Obama era guidance. Perhaps most notable is that they promote myths that (1) false accusations are rampant and (2) complainants and respondents have unequal rights in Title IX hearings under previous rules.

 

What is notice-and-comment?

When Congress passes a law, federal agencies are often left to interpret any ambiguity and determine policies to implement and enforce the law. When any policies are to be established as legally binding regulation, they undergo a rulemaking process. Most agencies use notice-and-comment as their rule-making process. Basically, the agency issues a proposed version of the regulation, provides the public time to comment on the proposed regulation, then issues a final version based on the comments.

It must be a publicly accountable process. For example, say the Department proposed a rule requiring every student wear orange shoelaces, and 100,000 comments come in opposing that rule while 5,000 come in supporting that rule. If the Department’s final rule still had the orange shoelace policy included, it would have to substantively justify why it went against the public’s comments and may still be subject to legal action for not being responsive.

We expect the Department of Education to release its proposed Title IX rules soon, prompting a comment period.

 

What can you do?

Since there is no proposed rule yet, there is nothing to react to. We recommend the following actions in advance of the notice-and-comment process:

  1. Submit a memo to NCLC responding to our recent Request for Information on Title IX. It will be a good way to collect and summarize what is important about Title IX on your campus.

  2. Plan a week of action for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April), educating your campus about the importance of Title IX as a gender equity law.

  3. Identify leaders on your campus who can help champion the comment period when it starts so your campus’ student perspectives are considered during the process.


Presidential Profile: Justin Onwenu, Rice University

In December 2017, Rice University's Student Body President Justin Onwenu led a national campaign against scholarship displacement, a practice in which institutions reduce financial aid awards by the amount of a student’s scholarship so they may redistribute the funds to other students. Maryland was the first state to outlaw this practice, preventing the state’s public colleges from cutting students’ financial aid package. We spoke to Justin on how this issue was brought to his attention, and why now is the time to be engaged in higher education policy.

 

NCLC: You led a national campaign against scholarship displacement. Why is this topic so important to you?

Justin Onwenu: This was something that I was made aware of when coming to college. I had family members, parents, and grandparents, telling me to look into private scholarships. I got Pell Grants, but there were still a lot of gaps that needed to be filled from a funding perspective. I was talking to students who were already in college and something they brought up was that there was no point in searching for scholarships. They said, “if you received a private scholarship from a company, your school is just going to be notified of that and they're going to deduct the funding that they were going to give you.” So no matter how much support you got from outside organizations, your school would not make pay the same amount of funding that they would have otherwise.

 

NCLC: How did you become involved with advocating for this movement?

JO: When I realized this wasn’t just a problem at my school or something students anecdotally have heard of. This is actually a policy problem. That's when I ended up writing an article about this issue, which was later published by the New York Times. It was really exciting!

I had students reaching out to me saying they didn't know this was something every student knew about, but they also expressed not having an opportunity to address it.

 

NCLC: How were you able to get the story published?

JO: I think people got the impression that I called the New York Times asking for a favor, but it really was just grunt work, emailing and calling day after day. I sent the article that summer and because there was something new coming out of the government every week, it kept getting pushed back. The New York Times has a higher ed section, so I reached out to the editor every week. She would say "call me next week,” so I would call next week.

 

NCLC: What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced when getting your message across?

JO: The challenge has been higher education as a whole. There are a lot of issues regarding DACA, plus there's a lot of talk about tuition-free college, loan restructuring and discharging, and sexual assault policy. It's very good that people are talking about higher education policy right now but that makes it a lot more difficult when touching on very specific policies. The big challenge is trying to make sure people know about this policy and ensuring people know this is something we should advocate for in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

For my campus, the largest challenge has been to make sure people are thinking outside of themselves and advocating for people outside of the community.

 

NCLC: You were on Capitol Hill recently talking about this issue with members of Congress. How was your experience?  

JO: That was my first visit on the Hill. It was informative, in terms of learning how slow everything moves.There are so many congressmen and senators, and each person has a different agenda. My biggest takeaway is that showing up is half the battle. Going to the office and speaking to a staffer brings new levels of engagement that says to lawmakers "this is something that is important and needs support."

 

NCLC: Did you experience any challenges during your visit to the Hill?

JO: As a novice, it was hard to tell which staffers were just nodding along and which ones really believed in our efforts. Overall, making a change in any form is a lot harder than people think it will be, but also a lot easier. I think it was it was a lot easier to get involved, but it's the first step on a very long road.

I think another main take away is that lawmakers work for us. Most times, we view lawmakers as inaccessible but they are paid by taxpayers. That person you are going to talk to represents you and your district. That alone made me more comfortable in challenging the status quo and also being able to say there's a policy that is unfair and undermines public-private cooperation.

 

NCLC: What do you hope to see in the future for scholarship affordability?

JO: I think there is an opportunity to make substantial improvements through policy. I'm hoping that students become less cynical and become more involved in higher education policy. The main focus right now is trying to find that go-to member of Congress or Senator that will push hard for scholarship reform and an amendment on the reauthorization for a scholarship displacement ban.

 

NCLC: What tips do you have for other student leaders interested in doing this work?

JO: I don't think there's been a better time to be a student leader who is engaged on a policy level. Things are picking up and we're gaining momentum in terms of how strong of a force students can be for creating change.


Check out Justin’s op-ed in the New York Times, "The Catch-22 of Applying for Private Scholarships" here.


Photos provided courtesy of Justin Onwenu.


Affirmative consent passes in Minnesota

Last fall, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos rescinded Obama era Title IX guidance and issued an "interim" set of guidance until the department could come up with proposed federal rules. That process is expected to kick off in March and will provide students the opportunity to weigh in on the final version of the rules. We're pretty concerned about what may come from that process, but there are rays of hope all around the country. 

Yesterday, the Minnesota State University Board of Trustees became the latest system to adopt a uniform affirmative consent policy. The unanimous vote on February 21st sets a clear standard for Minnesota State's 37 institutions and came after a big push from students across the system to improve policy and education programs. Students United, which represents the student governments of the system's seven universities, led the charge. We caught up with the Chair of Students United, Faiçal Rayani, to learn more about their successful advocacy and tips for other systems. 

 


 

NCLC: What's your background? How did you end up becoming Students United Chair? 

Faiçal Rayani: I am an international student at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I am a senior, my major is Information Technology. I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, my father is from Tunisia and my mother is from Syria. I got into student leadership as a residence association representative and found my passion for public service. After many failures, I was elected as a student senator for 3 years in a row, the vice president of the international student association, the vice president of the residence hall association, student body president and finally now as State Chair of students United representing all university students in the Minnesota state system. I also started my own data science student organization at MSU, Mankato that has a strong 100+ members.

NCLC: Why is this issue a priority for you? How did you get involved?

FR: As an international student born and raised in Saudi Arabia I was unaware of the lack of consent and bystander intervention education in the United States. I attended a consent seminar my freshman year and was alarmed by the number of students that did not understand the meaning of consent. When I was elected as State Chair, I decided to have a focused approach. I gathered the board to identify and tackle a maximum of three major issues or objectives and affirmative consent made the list as a high priority for Students United this year.

 

NCLC: What were/are your goals and what was/is your game plan for getting there?

FR: We started by working on the universities individually and that gathered support from university presidents, student government and Title IX coordinators on our individual seven state universities. We were simultaneously lobbying with the system office to change and improve the policy while continuing the conversation with all other stakeholders such as the IFO and the board of trustees. Our plan was to have a uniform and collaborative effort at all levels of the Minnesota State System.

 

NCLC: What have been the biggest challenges during this effort?

FR: A challenge at first was passing a uniform policy through all seven state university student governments. It was difficult to identify language that all students agreed on. It was also difficult to coordinate the motion passing since it hinged entirely on student support and passion for the issue on that particular campus. It was also challenging to rally all the stakeholders behind the idea of affirmative consent and educating them on the need for the policy in the system.    

 

NCLC: What has the response been from students on your campus and across the system?

FR: We have received overwhelming support from our students. Our delegation of 41 voting members that attend our conference voted unanimously to expedite the adoption of affirmative consent. Our board unanimously passed it, followed by all seven state university student governments unanimously passing it. Today, Feb. 21, 2018, the board of trustees of Minnesota State also unanimously passed the policy. This change has long been overdue to combat the epidemic of sexual assault.

 

NCLC: What are your tips for other student leaders on how they can be successful on this issue?

  • Collaborate uniformly - Our greatest strength was that we involved ALL stakeholders in the discussions. This allowed us to take control of the dialogue and centralize the discussion while also buying in support.
  • Build relationships - We already had established great relationships with the faculty association, the student governments, university presidents, Title IX officers and chief diversity officers. My advice is to never burn a bridge and keep a respectful relationship with all stakeholders if at all possible.
  • Rally student support - Campaigning with students early on regarding the policy allowed us to obtain student support early in the process. This led to students advocating on this issue on their individual campuses.
  • Be knowledgeable - As student leaders, we spent the time to learn this issue and know how to answer the tough questions. 

 


 

You can read Students United's FAQ about the new policy and listen to them discuss it on their podcast 


Presidential Profile: Daysi Bedolla, Eastern Oregon

At the beginning of the semester, President Trump announced the end of the DACA program, allowing Congress six months to save the program and the 800,000 young people who are currently part of it. One of those students is Daysi Bedolla, who is currently student body president at Eastern Oregon University. She has been active in advocating for undocumented students rights for years and has looked to student government as an important platform to expand and elevate that advocacy. She recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to share her story with Members of Congress. We caught up with Daysi recently as she reflected on where the issue has been and where it is going next. 

 

NCLC: How did you become involved in advocacy around DACA?

Daysi Bedolla: I went to DC to take action [in November] because I am a DACA recipient.  That encouraged me to advocate for others and myself. Our goal is to raise awareness about we’re doing. There is a lot of stigma against DACA and undocumented folks. A lot of what I’m doing is for everyone surrounding me to benefit. I care deeply to make sure that others have the opportunity to go to college. It’s difficult to find scholarships and support. I want to make sure all people have access to higher education.

 

NCLC: What were your big takeaways from the DC trip?

DB: I was involved [in DACA advocacy] prior to the D.C. action. I went to a meeting organizing advocates from Oregon, trying to get a local member of Congress to support DACA. We have not yet succeeded there. Making noise in D.C. was very intentionally, there are all these people in the same boat – I have often felt like a voice for this DACA community and for once it didn’t feel like I was doing it alone. Walking next to the people going through the same thing I’m going through, it felt super powerful and encouraging to see Senators take the Senate with us and hold signs during marches. We didn’t get the results we wanted yet, which is [Speaker of the House] Paul Ryan saying something to us.

 

NCLC: What has the response been within the campus community?

DB: Before I was SGA president, I was president of a club called United Undocumented Students. It’s been a transition from that position to SGA president – I spoke with my advisors beforehand to make sure I was balanced in my approach on DACA. They challenged me to ask “would I act this strongly for any other cause?” My answer was yes. I am up for fighting for racial justice and equality. I haven’t heard anything bad from the administration so I guess that’s a good thing. Due to the work on DACA last year, I think we are primed for success on campus and within the community. 

 

NCLC: What was your pathway from DACA advocacy to becoming student body president?

DB: I started United Undocumented Students on campus two years ago because of a conference I attended called “Oregon Students of Color.” I joined a coalition meeting with undocumented students. From there, we decided to go back to our campuses and make some change. I proposed starting a club for undocumented students and allies. The first year was in the spring term 2016; we set up a safe space and network with other Oregon and Washington institutions. Our first endeavor was [voter] registration drives in partnership with the SGA. We joined local initiatives and national initiatives. I was already doing some of that work and working at multicultural affairs center. 

I met a lot of people during my time in those roles. I talked to a lot of advisors; I decided in the spring term and was encouraged to do it. Being an advocate for human rights is my passion. It has been difficult; I gave up the club to do student government. My mother advises, “it doesn’t matter what I do as long as true to myself and advocating for students,” which is my passion. Talking to my counselor, I asked the same question and received the same answer. I had a huge group of friends to help me run [for SGA president]. I wanted to make change and bring a lot of people together. The multicultural center was really helpful, and we ultimately were successful!

 

NCLC: How do you feel about where things are and where they are going?

DB: I don’t know how I feel right now. Within my work as student body president, I am working on mental health. There is a stigma of leaders needing help. Something I’ve been doing is going to see my therapist – it keeps me living. But I also have a really good support system. It is always in the back of my mind, but it’s not constant. I try to stay neutral and keep it in focus when possible. I have applied to go up to D.C. for the advocacy work after classes have finished. I am also organizing senator calls and rallies locally. We are seeking more support. I will be doing more of that work during winter break. 

We are showing that youth can move mountains. Everything seems uncertain – I’ll just continue to do what I do, which is advocate for folks and for myself. Maybe why I don’t think about [legislation not passing] is because my brother is a DACA student and currently in high school. There are students like him that might not be able to make it to college if something doesn’t happen. We have to appeal more to the emotions [of lawmakers]. Even if it doesn’t pass in the next months, we’ll keep pushing. DACA is used by politicians; yes, it is made political. It won’t keep me from advocating for students.

 

NCLC: What tips do you have for other student leaders interested in doing this work?

DB:

  • Ask undocumented students on your campus what they need. it is especially important to go out of your way to ask and interact with undocumented students – maybe open a safe space for undocumented students if there isn’t a campus club. Example, we have an advocate group alongside our club, students sign up if they want to talk or if they don’t feel safe, etc. This is an initiative we started last year.
  • Provide undocumented students platforms to speak up and share their voice.
  • Advocate for policy change. It is vital to organize call drives to Congress, launch campaigns, and educate people on what DACA recipients do, what DACA recipients want. We aren’t criminals, but rather contributing, valuable parts of America.

 

NCLC: Is there anything else you feel would be important for us to include that student body leaders should know?

DB: Just to encourage a greater call for allies! It’s important to call on allies to lend their support and take action with us. The action is a big piece. If there isn’t action we will unfortunately not move forward. In D.C., we had a lot of allies, [and] the numbers increase when we have them. It’s important to not just say we support but take action locally and in Washington D.C.


Photos provided courtesy of Daysi Bedolla. 


Tax reform plan, explained

 

[Updated on November 14, 2017, to include changes and information about Senate version]

Tax reform was a major promise from President Trump and Members of Congress from both parties during the 2016 campaign. That promise has now taken shape as the 429-page Tax Cut & Jobs Act. The next step is for the House Ways and Means Committee to do a four-day markup, which is a formal process for considering amendments to legislation.

What does this have to do with colleges?

Tax policy has a huge influence on higher education policy, affecting how students pay for college and how institutions make investments, among other things. There is a lot to unpack in the current GOP proposal. Here are four big items you should be aware of:

  • Ending the student loan interest deduction | When you take out a federal student loan, you have the initial amount of the loan plus the interest on that loan. The current provision allows you to deduct the payments you make on the interest on your student loans (up to $2,500) when paying your taxes. The proposed policy would end this deduction.

  • Eliminating tax credits | Students and families paying for tuition can take advantage of a few different tax credits, depending on how long the student has been in school. These include the American Opportunity Tax Credit (up to $5,000 per year), Lifetime Learning Credit (up to $2,000 per year), and the Hope Scholarship Credit (up to $1,500 per year). The proposed policy would eliminate the Lifetime Learning Credit and Hope Scholarship Credit. The future of the American Opportunity Tax Credit is a little murky, as a separate provision could limit access to the credit. Ultimately, the proposed policy would limit or eliminate the credits students and families use, depending on how long students are in school.

  • Taxing “waived tuition” | This largely affects graduate and doctoral students, but it is worth knowing about. A form of financial aid that many institutions use is tuition remission. Essentially, a college will say a student does not have to pay some or all of their tuition, typically in exchange for their contribution to research or responsibilities on campus. The proposed policy would require students to report the value of the waived tuition as income. So if you make $20k per year during a part-time job and your institution waives the $40k annual tuition, the proposed law would tax you as if you earn $60k annually.

  • Tax on university endowment investments | Universities raise a lot of money for important programs like scholarship and faculty recruitment and retention. Universities do this through traditional fundraising (if you are an alum, you get hit up for money a lot) and making investments. The proposed policy would establish a 1.4% tax on income that private universities generate through investments. While it only targets institutions with uber-large endowments, the higher ed community is concerned about the precedent and long-term pressure to raise additional funds to offset the loss of income in order to maintain important programs.

What does the Senate have to say about this?

The Senate released their version of the bill on Friday, November 10th. The Senate version is generally better for higher education in comparison to the House version. You can find a quick breakdown below comparing the key parts of the plans, but the Senate bill introduces a new issue:

  • Royalty taxes | Most institutions are nonprofit organizations, which means the money they earn is usually not subject to taxes. Institutions own their own branding and can license out usage of that branding for commercial purposes. That's how you get all the t-shirts, magnets, and mugs in the campus bookshop. The institution generates revenue each time those items are purchased through royalties. The Senate bill would treat that revenue as "unrelated business income" and tax it as if the institution were a for-profit corporation. 

Here is a quick overview of the key differences: 

 

Issue Senate House
Higher ed tax credits Leaves them alone Eliminates all but one
Student loan interest deduction Leaves it alone Eliminates it 
Endowment tax Taxes them Taxes them
Tuition waivers Leaves them alone Taxes as income
Logo royalties Taxes as unrelated income Not included

 

Why does this matter? 

The U.S. tax code is pretty messy, and both parties tend to support cleaning up the seemingly endless list of deductions and credits and loopholes. It is not much of a surprise that some items that affect higher education would be included in a tax reform proposal. In and of itself, that is not a big problem. Actually, much of the higher education community agrees that higher education tax credits are not well targeted as a form of student aid and could be eliminated in order to significantly invest in the Pell grant program. The major hangup is that the savings that the Tax Cut & Jobs Act eliminates these benefits without reinvesting the savings back into better targeted higher education programs.

Get involved

If you are interested in getting involved with this issue, reach out to NCLC at policy@campusleaders.org. We'll connect you with some awesome partner organizations who are working on this issue.

We will keep you posted as the proposal develops further, but we recommend you follow the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed for their comprehensive coverage.


NJ campuses go to vote

Since 2010, a former student body president has been leading New Jersey as governor. But opinion polls--and the general news--show that Governor Chris Christie faces increasing scrutiny over various decisions, gaffes, and confrontations with constituents. But behind the public controversy is a state government that shapes students’ lives every day.

Today, the state will elect a new governor and campuses around the state are jumping in to shape the state’s future.

We spoke to the student body presidents at Rutgers University and Caldwell University to learn how student leaders are navigating the election. The two institutions couldn’t be more different. Rutgers is a major research institution, newly admitted to the Big Ten Conference, and sits as the state’s biggest public institution with more than 65,000 students. Caldwell, on the other hand, Caldwell is a private Catholic institution with about 2,000 students.

Tough environment

The backdrop to the 2017 election, of course, is the rancor and vitriol of the 2016 election. That has affected these campuses differently. Evan Covello, Rutgers student body president, thinks 2016 has made Rutgers students more active, but the stakes of state policy are the real motivation for students to be involved.

“What’s made it interesting is the fact that we’ve had years of a governor who hasn’t really done much for higher education,” Covello said. “Even people who haven’t been involved in state government in the past have gotten more engaged in reaction to that.”

Lindsey Hogan, Caldwell student body president, feels her student body has reacted differently.

“From what it seems from the involvement in [the 2016 election], is that we have a very high Democratic student rate on campus,” Hogan said. “Following last year’s election a lot of people weren’t happy with the outcome and I think that kind of steered them away from trying to really focus on this election, which is unfortunate.”

Bringing people together

Both presidents see their role as facilitator and making sure everyone feels they can participate, particularly given the heavily partisan political environment.

“I think that as student government and my job as president, I think that the most important thing to focus on is to make sure that everyone is comfortable and everyone is knowledgeable of the resources that they have provided for them,” said Hogan. Caldwell’s student government has worked to better empower politically active student organizations, like the Socio-political Society, have the resources they need to engage students in the election.

“Caldwell is really close-knit so all of our student clubs and organizations really tie into the academic departments that they’re involved in …  I think that student government [is] the liaison that ties together the students and the faculty and the staff and all of the resources on campus,” Hogan said.

Similarly, Covello has sought to use student government as a way to support other organizations doing voter engagement work. Early on, he convened a civic engagement task force, comprised of politically affiliated student organizations.

“My job is to help bridge that gap between the awareness about the election and some of the barriers that could come up between [students] and voting,” Covello said.

Working Working with Administrators

At both institutions, the student governments have worked with their university administrations to support voter education and registration efforts. At Rutgers, RU Voting has provided a central venue for students to access information and resources about voting. It’s a university-driven initiative that has helped student leaders drive students to central information. They are even planning to provide shuttles to students to get to their polling locations, according to Covello.

Hogan cited some 2016 election programming as particularly reflective of how the Caldwell administration works with students.

“Last year when we had those open forums, we had the president of the university there, we had the VP student life, we had counseling services, and they all actively participated in the conversation as well,” Hogan said. “It was really nice to see everyone kind of engage in a civil conversation no matter what their role was on campus.”

Challenges

Both campuses has a unique set of challenges, but Rutgers faces a particularly tough one: geography. The New Brunswick campus is large and sprawling, covering two jurisdictions. Depending on where a student lives on campus, they may have a totally different polling location and slate of local candidates.

“If you live in one dorm, your voting location could be somewhere totally different than someone who lives in the building across from you on campus,” Covello said.

This is part of why Covello has focused so much energy on making sure everyone who is trying to get students to the polls is equipped with the right information through RU Voting.

Takeaways

Even in off-off-year elections, student leaders are committed to ensuring students are a part of the process with the information and resources to be informed voters. In New Jersey, Rutgers and Caldwell provide an interesting roadmap for institutions of all sizes.

The key: be a resource to a diverse set of student groups.

As Covello said, “The number one thing is the university really needs to work in unison in terms of getting students out to vote and getting participation up. I think it’s important for Rutgers but really anywhere that faculty and student orgs are on the same page about information about basic things like polling locations.”

We will see what comes from the 2017 elections, but Covello is already looking to the future. He has advocated for election days to be recognized as university holidays so that students are able to miss class in order to vote.

 


Statement about Sec DeVos Title IX Announcement

Statement on Announcement About Federal Title IX Enforcement

Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced her intention to rescind and use a public comment process to rewrite the Obama Administration’s policies and guidance on Title IX enforcement. A 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and subsequent guidance from the U.S. Department of Education reshaped how colleges and universities understand and implement their obligation to prevent gender-based discrimination under Title IX. Under current policy, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened more than 300 investigations into potential institutional failures to properly protect students’ rights under Title IX. While campus sexual assault is significantly under-reported, national and institutional studies consistently find that roughly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men experience sexual assault during their time as undergraduates. LGBT students and students of color are at greater risk.   

Andy MacCracken, NCLC Executive Director and Cofounder, issued the following statement:

“I believe survivors. NCLC believes survivors.

Secretary DeVos’s remarks were based on the common myth that there is an epidemic of false accusations of sexual assault. There is not. Every study shows that false sexual assault reports are as rare as every other violent crime category. Suggesting otherwise is wildly irresponsible.

I agree with the Secretary that we must ensure effective and fair campus proceedings, and that’s exactly why we should build on the Obama Administration’s guidelines rather than start over. The guidelines pursue consistency, fidelity, and transparency at every institution and include thorough implementation suggestions using evidence-based best practices. If institutions follow them well, students know what to expect from the process. Higher education is slow to change. Without pressure from OCR, students--especially survivors--are left with the full burden of improving proceedings and policy campus by campus.

As we move into a new academic year, uncertainty about the future of federal policy is dangerous. Title IX is still the law, and institutions are obligated to implement best practices to prevent sexual assault and hold perpetrators accountable.

I urge all student leaders to participate in the public comments process Secretary DeVos announced and redouble efforts to improve campus policy and culture. NCLC will work closely with our student leaders to ensure their input and voices are heard by policymakers and federal leadership.”


Statement about Charlottesville events

On behalf of the National Campus Leadership Council, NCLC's Executive Director Andy MacCracken released the following statement:

"Student body presidents from around the country released a joint statement today condemning the acts of hate and violence by White supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, this weekend. NCLC reaffirms the statement and strongly encourages all student body leaders to join in and amplify that much-needed solidarity. What we are seeing is not normal. We must rebuild the broken national discourse, and we must all urgently rise to do what is required of us to start that process in our own campus communities and beyond. As we move into a new academic year, NCLC will do its part to stand with and support students leading these efforts nationwide, campus by campus."

 


NCLC announces Campus Impact Conference

Since 2012, NCLC has connected and trained thousands of student leaders. Our Presidential Leadership Summit has attracted student body presidents from nearly all fifty states.

Today, we’re launching the Campus Impact Conference--or CampusCon for short--to help student leaders at every level build a better campus.

We created this conference to equip your organization’s cabinet with serious training to make your term a resounding success. Designed for student government teams and student leaders from any campus organization, CampusCon will feature engaging speakers, rich educational content, and opportunity to create lasting partnerships and friendships.

Join us in Denver this fall to develop networks, gain expertise, and create a plan for action.

October 20-22, 2017

Denver, Colorado

$339 per student

Early rates end August 15th

Browse our website here to learn more — and as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. We can’t wait to see you!

 


connect

get updates