The Associated Students of the University of Missouri released its 2013-2014 Legislative Platform earlier this month. It focuses on four core issues as well as two additional ones.
ASUM is MU’s official student lobbying organization. It has a two-fold mission to educate students about the political process and lobby for student’s interest in Jefferson City, ASUM President Ben Levin said.
On Oct. 1, ASUM released a legislative platform that prioritizes issues MU students have the most stake in. The first issue, and what Levin described as first priority, is the UM state budget allocation.
“Our platform’s main focus will be on achieving our core funding appropriation, which for this upcoming session will be $434.6 million,” Levin said.
The core funding represents what MU is asking for from the state of Missouri. According to the platform, MU has historically been one of the more underfunded state public institutions across the country.
“That’s for core operating expenses, which is basically keeping all of our lights on,” Levin said.
As well as core funding, ASUM and the UM System are demonstrating a need for an additional $59.9 million aimed toward science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The funds will go to increase STEM education and research capacity, according to the platform.
Reasoning for the increase in STEM funding pertains to the increase in STEM-related jobs in upcoming years. By 2018, these jobs are set to increase by 143,000, 91 percent of which will require a form of college education, according to the platform.
According to the 2013 ASUM Legislative Issues Survey, 35 percent of MU students plan to graduate with a degree in a STEM field, leaving 65 percent either unsure of their degree or pursuing one in a different field.
“Providing education for STEM fields offers an incredible opportunity to enhance Missouri’s economy,” Levin said. “These STEM professions are becoming more and more important, and it’s critical that our state legislature recognize that and give Missourians the opportunity to pursue a quality education in those fields.”
Another one of ASUM’s core issues – something ASUM has fought for since 1970 – is placing a student on the UM System Board of Curators, a group of nine members who are appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon, Levin said. It’s also among one of ASUM’s core issues this year.
The student, if appointed by Nixon, would have voting privileges on a board that oversees the entire UM System. MU is unlike most public land grant schools in that they do not have a student serving as a member on the board, Levin said.
The final core issue is landlord-tenant relations, one that has risen as enrollment at MU and across the UM System steadily increases. According to the 2013 ASUM Legislative Issues Survey, 38 percent of MU students live in an off-campus rental property.
“We are looking to give tenants more tools in making sure that they can deal with exploitative landlords,” Levin said.
Besides ASUM’s four main issues, two additional issues are included on their platform. These additional issues include soft closings, which would allow business owners to stay open an additional hour after “last call” and legal immunity for those seeking medical help for others experiencing drug or alcohol-related overdoses, according to the platform.