Saturday, July 21st, 2018

Plans for student advocacy program unfold

Laura Cyr, postgraduate fellow in finance and administration, made her last stop at USM last week to present her student advocacy program to the student senate. She explained the program and asked for help in promoting it and selecting members.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Laura Cyr, postgraduate fellow in finance and administration, made her last stop at USM last week to present her student advocacy program to the student senate. She explained the program and asked for help in promoting it and selecting members.

Posted on March 02, 2015 in News
By Sam Hill

Students concerned with state appropriation for higher education in Maine will soon have an opportunity to take their thoughts and concerns straight to the state legislature.

In connection with the University of Maine system chancellor’s office, Laura Cyr, a postgraduate fellow in finance and administration, is spearheading the formation of a student advocacy program that would give students from all seven UMaine campuses direct access to their elected officials.

“I think students have been asking for this kind of opportunity for a long time,” said Cyr. “Students have been looking to learn about the decision making process, not only at their university but in their state government as well.”

Cyr spoke with student senators at their meeting last Friday, having recently returned from a visit to all the other UMaine campuses, to explain the program and ask for help in promotion and member selection.

“The program will get students involved in phone-banking, letter writing campaigns and start a dialogue between the student body and legislatures,” she explained.

This year will serve as a pilot year for the program and Cyr will be guiding a to-be-determined group of student representatives throughout the statehouse on March 24. She is currently accepting suggestions and applications for interested students. The goal is to take four students from each of the UMaine campuses.

“There’s no limit to the amount of students who can participate, but for this one-day event we’re testing the waters,” said Cyr. While four students per campus is the aim, Cyr said that she would keep additional interested students on a reserve list, in case a student drops out of attending or there are not enough interested students on a certain campus.

According to a summary of Governor Paul LePage’s 2016-2017 budget, his plan includes a 3.64 percent increase — roughly $14.2 million — for the University of Maine system.

“I think this year, we’re handed an issue on a plate,” said Cyr, “but we’re excited that, in future years, students will be able to bring their own issues to the table.”

Junior student senator John Jackson drafted a resolution that, if passed, would give the program the senate’s full endorsement, urge the faculty senate to pass a similar resolution and provide the manpower to help organize a search for student representatives.

Due to a breakdown in communication between senators, the resolution was not on the agenda despite being submitted earlier in the week. The senate voted to consider passing the proposals after reading and revising the document, but after spending time arguing semantics and grammar in just a few sections of the resolution, voted to table it until their next meeting.

Cyr noted that although this first visit to Augusta will be a pilot trip, that the administration is set to develop and continue the program in the future.

“We’re looking for ways to make this easier and more accessible to students,” said Cyr. “The response [throughout the system] has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re hoping to create a program that will last.”

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