While Lobby Day is an annual opportunity for Wayne State faculty and students to advocate for state funding on behalf of the university, this year, WSU has a familiar face in the capitol: Greg Bird.
Greg Bird, the university’s director of state relations since 2008, was appointed as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s legislative director in January, according to Crain’s Detroit.
Brianna Ellison, who works in WSU’s Division of Government and Community Affairs, is involved in planning this year’s Lobby Day. Ellison said an emphasis will be placed on introducing the university to Whitmer and other new legislatures.
“We really want to want to make sure we are introducing Wayne State and the Wayne State community to them,” she said.
Stuart Baum, president of WSU’s Student Senate, said this year’s Lobby Day is especially important because WSU is the only public university whose funding has not been raised since the 2008 recession.
The metric system used to determine how much funding a university receives does not take into account the success rate of graduate or professional students, Baum said. The system only considers full-time undergraduate students when calculating the allocation of state funds.
“The current funding formula only counts undergraduate students,” Ellison said. “This hurts Wayne State because approximately 40 percent of our students are in graduate and professional programs. They (graduate students) do not get counted in the fiscal-year equated student calculation. Therefore, we receive no funding for these students.”
This year at Lobby Day, WSU will be asking for a review on what is counted in this metric system, Baum said. In addition, WSU will be seeking a one-time payment of $11.8 million, Ellison said.
“I’m interested in making sure that Wayne State’s voice is being heard on a bigger level,” said Ali Fakih, a Student Senate senator at large. “Representation is important, and I really wanted to be the voices for those individuals.”
Lobby Day is open for all WSU students to participate in, Baum said.
“It’s an advocacy day, but it’s also an education opportunity — for students and faculty who haven’t really done anything like this before — to learn about the process and get involved,” he said. “It’s often coupled with other events where we hear from legislatures who work in Lansing.”
The proceedings at Lobby Day have a direct impact on WSU students, Baum said.
“What it all comes down to is if we get more funding from the state, we don’t have to raise tuition that much,” Baum said.
Lobby Day is scheduled for March 19. For information on how to participate, contact WSU’s Student Senate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo from WSU Lobby Day 2017, courtesy of WSU's Division of Government and Community Affairs.