Mar 012010
 
Authors: Seth Anthony

Last Thursday, the Colorado House of Representatives’ Education Committee approved, on a 7-5 vote, legislation that would provide a vote on the CSU System Board of Governors to student representatives from CSU and CSU-Pueblo. The Board of Governors is essentially the boss of CSU’s Chancellor Joe Blake and President Tony Frank – the board ultimately decides whether to hire or fire our top leaders and has the power to set the university’s budget, as well as students’ tuition and fees, within the rules set by the state of Colorado.

This is a significant step forward from last year, when a similar proposal was killed by the same committee, but a  number of hurdles still remain towards that student vote — the whole 65-member House has to approve what the Education Committee backed last week, then the bill goes to the Senate Education committee, the full Senate, and finally, if it’s made it through all that, to the Governor’s office. 

Much of the work in pressing this legislation forward has been done by students, particularly those in the student governments at CSU and CSU-Pueblo. But students have had some help, in the form of a professional lobbying firm hired by ASCSU. Out of the $1.7 million pot of money generated by the ASCSU fee most students pay, about $10,000 goes to pay for a lobbyist down at the capitol who tracks legislation, interacts with lawmakers and helps makes sure that, even from an hour away, students aren’t left out of the loop.

If you’re interested in influencing the legislature, this makes a lot of sense — things can change fast at the state capitol in Denver, and having a paid lobbyist down there pretty much every day has clearly helped ASCSU advance its causes in the General Assembly.

However, ASCSU isn’t the only way we for a presence at the state capitol. The CSU system office — an office funded off of our tax dollars and our tuition dollars — also hires lobbyists and staff, one of whom testified against this same proposal, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan. 

So, with one hand, we’re paying to support legislation calling for a student vote on the Board of Governors, and, with the other, we’re paying to oppose it. This is the proverbial “house divided against itself” that cannot stand, or at the very least, wastes our money — state funds collected through tuition, taxes and fees.

Sadly, this situation isn’t unique to CSU — entities within government explicitly compete with one another for funds, testify and lobby at cross-purposes to the legislature and argue opposing positions on policy issues. It’s obscene that we’re paying money to have two different entities lobby against each other to legislators — who, by the way, we also pay.  

Even when different arms of government aren’t lobbying against each other, they still contribute to a self-reinforcing system in which government creates and funds entities which use some of that cash to lobby the government that created them (usually, lobbying for more cash). Such a system is bound, almost by definition, to spiral out of control in unsustainable ways. 

So as much as I like having a lobbyist at the state capitol to work on behalf of students, I’m deeply troubled by the nature of the system that presently exists. If students wish to lobby their legislators, we shouldn’t do so on the backs of our classmates. If Tony Frank wishes to tell lawmakers how important higher education is to Colorado, he should do so on his own time and out of his own bank account and not CSU’s. The same goes for both students, administrators and members of the Board of Governors who have opinions about who should sit on that board.
It’s time for Colorado to set the example; to do away with government-funded lobbyists at all levels, and to let the citizens of Colorado simply speak for themselves.

_Seth Anthony rouses rabble as a Ph.D. student in chemistry, as president of the Graduate Student Council, as ASCSU Liason for Graduate and Professional Affairs, and in the Collegian most Tuesdays. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com. _

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