ASEWU introduces new legislative EagleSync page

By Kalli Wolf, Staff Writer

ASEWU is introducing a new EagleSync page that will allow students to stay up to date on changes in the Washington state college experience at the legislative level.

“We are trying to get as many students involved in the legislative session this year that we can. In the past we haven’t been as successful; there have been some spurts depending on what legislation is happening,” Carlos Hernandez, ASEWU Legislative Affairs Representative, said.

According to Hernandez, the goal is for students’ voices to be heard through the page. It will allow students who are unaware of what is happening in their counties a place to find and share legislative information. “We just want to get the word out there [in a way] that is student friendly,” said Hernandez. “[It is] not as intimidating as getting a newsletter from a senator or representative.”

Students will have the option to opt-in to the page. Those who do not opt-in will not have access to the information. The page will also be beneficial to ASEWU in that it will let the organization know which students are interested and want to be involved when it comes to legislation at Eastern.

Usually when a senate bill or house bill is presented, it is just the bill number. “We’re taking those complicated bill numbers and we’re bringing it to words that we would understand,” said Hernandez. “We’re doing our research and our best to help students understand what is actually going on in the legislative session.”

Student testimonies will also be allowed on the page. Anna Schilter, ASEWU legislative liaison, will be able to email students who are on the page and get their stories if they are interested in testifying and voicing their concerns. “It’s a bridge between us and Anna, who is our representative [in Olympia] right now,” Hernandez said.

EWU, for example, is asking for $1.3 million of backfill due to the increase in enrollment, whereas other universities, except for the University of Washington, stayed relatively the same or had a decrease in attendance based on the tuition reduction. Hernandez said the problem is that the big money comes on a bi-annual year, and this year Washington is in a transportation year, which means money is not being given out. Hernandez said ASEWU wants this because the representatives and legislators said they would help with the costs due to increased attendance.

“We are at a deficit of $1.3 million for the next fiscal year,” said Hernandez. “We will survive as a university, but we aren’t going to have that $1.3 million and we want the legislators to be able to help us with what they promised.”
Not only is $1.3 million needed in state funding, but also a commitment to a tuition freeze. “It is imperative that the high cost of college textbooks are reduced, while access and flexibility to educational materials is increased,” according to the 2016 ASEWU Legislative Agenda.

“When it comes to educational quality, we want to make sure that our students are being advised well — that we are lowering the amount of years that people are here at Eastern,” said Hernandez. He said right now students graduate in about five years. “We want to bring it down to maybe four [or] four-and-a-half so that our students are not collecting so much debt.”

Another project in the works is the new science building, which requires $75 million in order to move forward in the building stage.
“With an estimated 20 percent growth rate of student enrollment in the STEM related fields, securing the state funding for the EWU Science Building is a top priority,” according to the ASEWU Legislative Agenda. The current science building does not meet projected capacity needs and violates a variety of accessibility and safety codes.

Another building project in the works is a Natural and Environmental Science Testing and Teaching Center (NESTT). It will be a fully sustainable eco-friendly building and the first of its kind at any public university. According to the 2016 ASEWU Legislative Agenda, the ASEWU wants the support of the state in EWU becoming more environmentally friendly through efforts such as the NESTT Center. “There [are not] a lot of specifics yet, but it’s in the preliminary stages,” Hernandez said.

Diversity is another project on the ASEWU Legislative Agenda for this year. “Just making sure all of our groups are being represented well,” Hernandez said.

For students wanting to get involved, ASEWU has a lobby day where they go to Olympia and represent Eastern. This is scheduled for Feb. 11 and 12. “We are going to be wearing our professional clothes and meet all of the representatives,” Hernandez said.

If a lot of students are interested in attending, ASEWU will have to make selections. The selection will be based on students’ answers to a few questions. Hernandez said they want to make sure they have a very diverse group of people going.

Students can contact the ASEWU office for more information.