The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Hawkeyes meet with state legislators to advocate for a variety of important issues

The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al
Students and state legislators gather at the State Capitol in Des Moines for Hawkeye Caucus Day on Tuesday, March 27, 2018. This is an event held annually to highlight accomplishments and services offered by the University of Iowa. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Students and representatives from a variety of University of Iowa departments and areas met with state legislators on Tuesday to advocate for a number of university-wide measures.

Students focused on minimizing midyear cuts for the current fiscal year, passing a statewide medical-amnesty law, and discussing sexual-assault measures.

“I think the most important part of Hawkeye Caucus is the ability for legislators to talk to students,” said Ellie Paxson, the director of membership and partnerships for the Hawkeye Caucus. “I think they are lobbied by a lot of people with agendas of their own, but with students here, they get to hear personal stories and get to see students’ sides of the impact of their vote.”

The main focus of the day for UI representatives was the request for legislators to support the state Board of Regents request for an additional $5 million in appropriations for financial aid.

The Legislature has approved $10.9 million in cuts to the UI and ISU for fiscal 2018. Gov. Kim Reynolds has yet to sign off on the cuts.

“We know that the Iowa budget is in a really tough place right now, and so of course we understand that cuts will be made,” said Emily Fenner, the director of legislative relations of Hawkeye Caucus.

Fenner said that although many are aware of the cuts, their effect is severe nonetheless.

“When cuts are made to the state appropriations that state schools get, that necessitates funding from somewhere, and a lot of times that funding comes from an increase in tuition,” she said. “We know how hard that is on students, so we really try to do everything we can to limit those added burdens on students. They’re already dealing with high tuition costs.”

Members of the Hawkeye Caucus believe that the appropriations are necessary in order to increase the value of education, Fenner said, and to make investments for the university’s future. The UI has compromised its quality and accessibility to students, she believes.

Medical amnesty, an important issue for many, was another notable discussion point. The current UI policy protects students in need of emergency medical assistance from receiving disciplinary measures but not legal prosecution.

On March 15, 2017, the Iowa Senate unanimously passed a bill providing immunity from specific alcohol-related offenses for individuals who call for help. However, this measure has not yet been passed the House.

Representatives also discussed UI topics seen as controversial, including Meatless Mondays, which some think can hurt meat producers; the Business Leaders in Christ student organization, which was removed from campus and later reinstated after a discrimination complaint; and free speech, which some fear can devolve into discrimination. Fenner said it is important to talk about these issues in order to encourage open discourse and to alleviate taboos.

“I think that addressing controversial issues and opening up the conversation is the only way that we’re ever going to move past the controversy that comes with those issues,” Fenner said.

Overall, UISG Vice President Lilián Sánchez said, Hawkeye Caucus is an important steppingstone for students to have their voices heard.

More to Discover