Apr 012012
Authors: Kate Simmons

Last weekend Associated Students of CSU President Eric Berlinberg, Vice President Rachel Roberson, and Chase Eckerdt, the director of Government Affairs, travelled to Washington. They met with congressional staff members and Colorado delegates to discuss higher education and put the university on officials’ radar.

“The individuals we met with aren’t going anywhere for years to come, and I think it’s important to show them that Colorado State students care about what’s happening at the federal level,” Roberson said.

This type of travel, while potentially beneficial, is not the students’ financial burden. Berlinberg said it is not funded by student fees. The money for the trip came from a mix of personal funds and self-generated ASCSU funds.

Eckerdt explained that it’s important to give officials a face to remember when they are making decisions that are going to affect CSU and other universities around the country.

“There is a lot of talk at the federal level about funding cuts to institutions like CSU and we wanted to make sure our voice was heard in relation to those cuts,” Berlinberg said.

“It’s very easy to cut something from somebody who’s not in the room. We want to be at the table while they’re doing it,” Eckerdt said. “I think it does a lot to give them a face and let them see the students who their decisions impact.”

Eckerdt said how important it is to be heard at a federal level, but he also wanted the CSU students to know that it’s important to communicate with ASCSU and the administration at CSU.

“It really can have an impact,” he said. “We really do care, and we really do listen.”

He wants students to feel like they can talk to their student government about issues they find important or have strong opinions about.

“Showing up and being engaged is the most important thing to do if you want to influence the ultimate outcome of an issue,” Eckerdt said. “It’s the people who show up who ultimately have influence.”

Showing up in Washington was important to Eckerdt so, as a student representative, he could work with the Colorado delegation and communicate the issues that are important to students.

“I think it’s crucial for us to build relationships,” Roberson said about meeting with federal-level officials. “I know typically our organization has been focused on local issues, but the dwelling issue of higher education means we need to step up our game a little bit.”

While Berlinberg’s administration has been involved at the local and state levels, it was important for him to “set up ASCSU on a federal level,” he said.

They talked about education with Senator Michael Bennet’s office.

“Senator Bennet was the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, so he knows more about this than any of us,” Berlinberg said.

Eckerdt said they talked with his office about education at the university level, but also about teaching kindergarten through 12 grade. The effectiveness of K-12 curriculum directly affects CSU enrollment, Eckerdt explained.

“It’s an educational pipeline,” he said. “We need to look at what parts of that pipeline we need to fix.”

Even though, as graduating seniors, Berlinberg and Eckerdt won’t be able to benefit from their efforts in Washington as CSU students, Eckerdt is hopeful that future ASCSU representatives will be able to follow their footsteps and implement change while representing the CSU student body.

“This isn’t about Eric and I, because we’re on our way out,” Eckerdt said. “It’s about the next administration and opening doors for them. Hopefully the next group can come in and have a base and a framework for how to come out here and maybe influence policy.”

Roberson agreed, and while administrations in the past haven’t been deeply involved in helping the next elected office take over, she said they plan to sit down with the next administration to help facilitate the transition.

“We feel it’s our responsibility to help them transition and make the transition as easy as possible,” she said.

Eckerdt said since they took office, he and Berlinberg had hoped to make a trip to Washington, something previous administrations haven’t done.

“We needed to make sure we start building a relationship out here now so if the people who come in after us can do a trip like this again, it should be easier for them,” Berlinberg said.

Collegian writer Kate Simmons can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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