In keeping with the campaign promises of ASWSU President Riley Myklebust and Vice President Amanda Spalding, members of the ASWSU legislative department plan to hold two Coug Days this spring.
In the past, Coug Day at the Capitol, the annual ASWSU-sponsored trip to Olympia, has primarily been a lobbying effort. Tristan Hanon, assistant director of legislative affairs, said this spring’s trips to Olympia will focus more on educating students about the legislature.
Hanon said ASWSU will likely hold the two Coug Days during the legislative session. The first trip will be in late January or early February, and the second will be held in late February.
The change in focus is partly due to legislation passed last year that gave the WSU Board of Regents tuition-setting power instead of state legislators, making lobbying for lower tuition in Olympia somewhat pointless.
“It gives us an opportunity to go to Olympia and address different student issues (other than tuition),” he said.
Also, Hanon said some past attendees were not as informed as they should have been because they received all the lobbying information on the bus ride to the capitol.
However, students who attend this spring’s Coug Days will likely receive a full day of training before meeting with legislators the following day.
“There was a lot of discussion about what Coug Day is as an event at its very core,” Hanon said. “We decided it wasn’t living up to the amount of money we were putting into it.”
He said the educational focus will help students become inspired and more involved in lobbying for higher education in the future.
Sophomore business major Lindsey Elhart, who attended Coug Day last spring, said she wished her experience in Olympia had placed more emphasis on education, but she is pleased with the plans for the upcoming trips and she plans to attend.
“A big part of what I got out of Coug Day last year was how complex the legislature is,” she said.
Elhart said she enjoyed learning about the legislature but did not think the students made an impact by lobbying because they were not prepared like professional lobbyists.
“Lobbying is a powerful tool, but we didn’t have enough information,” she said. “I think the educational approach will be more beneficial to students.”
ASWSU District 10 Sen. Alex Smith said Coug Day was historically an educational, workshop-based experience until tuition began increasing and students started lobbying in response.
“I’m really curious to see how it will work,” he said. “I think if it’s put on very well it will have a great impact on the students who go.”
While many students are angry about state cuts to WSU’s funding, Smith said the educational emphasis will allow students to better understand the processes in Olympia through a holistic approach.
“This will allow people to get an inside look at what happens in Olympia, and it will educate them in what would be more effective in their lobbying efforts in the future,” he said.
While Hanon has not finalized the budget for the trips to Olympia, he said he is trying to limit costs by making each weekend a little smaller than the lobbying trip last spring.
“We’re going to do all we can to make sure the cost is about the same as last year’s one Coug Day,” he said. “We’ll just have to make sure we’re very effective with our money.”
Smith, who is the head of the senate finance committee, said he plans on attending one of the trips, and while he wants to make sure Coug Day spending stays within the
budgeted amount, he thinks it is possible to hold two trips for nearly the same price as one.
Due to a large number of no-shows last year, Hanon said the application process will be more competitive to ensure students who sign up will attend.
“We don’t want to limit the number of people who can apply, but I want to make sure we’re getting the cream of the crop,” he said.