The Associated Students of the University of Missouri registered more than 5,000 students in the fall semester to vote and plans to continue this work in the spring semester.
With events such as “Let Your Vote Roar,” the organization’s main initiative in the fall semester was working on student voter registration before the presidential election. With the second semester upon them, ASUM has switched its focus from voter registration to the spring legislative session.
The organization strives to have a voice in local politics, and its main goal of the semester will be to lobby at the capitol for the interests of the student body of the UM System, executive director Corbin Evans said.
The group recruits interns from all four University of Missouri campuses, and those interns are trained during the fall semester. During the spring semester they spend two days a week at the capitol lobbying for student interests.
“What our organization does, the kind of uniqueness of it, is that we actually write policy, and then we lobby on that policy on behalf of the students,” Evans said.
The group is registered through the Missouri Ethics Commission as lobbyists in Missouri. They essentially do what professional lobbying groups in the state do during the spring session, which runs from January to May, Evans said.
When the group is at the capitol, they are in constant discussion every day with state senators and representatives, Evans said.
“While (ASUM President Roshaunda McLean) and the ASUM MU campus chapter are planning to do great things on campus, the ASUM Legislative Internship Team, headed by Legislative Director Abigail Thomas, is working hard lobbying for students in Jefferson City,” Evans said.
According to Steven Dickherber, a former MSA Legislative Advocacy Officer who worked with ASUM, the group has done a good job managing their money, which will give them advantages in the spring session. The lobbying work has generated a great working relationship with the state of Missouri.
“Essentially, if Mizzou can raise enough private donorship to build a non-revenue building, academic building . . . If Mizzou can raise enough for capitol for half the funding, the state will match them, given that there’s the money,” Dickherber said.
While ASUM is a fairly new organization, it continues to grow significantly every year.
McLean said the role of the president isn’t even fully defined as the group continues to grow on campus. This growth includes its first MU executive board: McLean, Vice President Ted Hammers, public relations organizer Daniela Sirtori and clerk Jennifer Pagan.
With every student paying into the organization as part of tuition, the group is obligated to lobby for what a majority of the students want in the spring. As spring approaches, those issues will start to come to light and will be addressed by the group, Evans said. One issue that is likely to come up is landlord-tenant relations.
“The landlord-tenant relations issue is something that ASUM continues to try and solve with legislation,” Evans said. “This year, however, we have decided to also attempt to address the problem through an education campaign. Information is being compiled and distributed on how students can register complains about their landlords through the Consumer Protections Division of the Attorney General's office.”
ASUM will also be collecting student input with a survey.
“Additionally, ASUM will be administering a legislative issues survey this semester to engage the students on what they would like to see ASUM lobby for,” Evans said. “This survey will be distributed across the UM System and gives students a chance to tell us what we are doing right and what they would like for us to spend more time on."