Towson students lobby at Maryland Statehouse during 24th annual Tiger Pride Day
By: Caitlyn Freeman, Editor in Chief and Gabriel Donahue, News Editor
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Several Towson University students and Student Government Association members lobbied lawmakers to pass bills that would make it easier for college students to obtain transcripts, K-12 students to access Title IX reporting and more during their 24th annual visit to the Maryland Statehouse on Wednesday.
The event, known as Tiger Pride Advocacy Day, was attended by about 100 Towson students from its main and hybrid campuses. During their visit, students networked with state lawmakers to lobby their support behind bills being considered during the current Maryland General Assembly legislative session.
To start the day, SGA President Jordan Colquitt, Director of Civic Engagement and Sustainability Jayden Johnstone and Senate Government Operations Chair Eddie Rhynes accepted a proclamation from the State Senate recognizing Tiger Pride Day.
Chief of Staff Zikiyaa Moody and Interim President Melanie Perreault accepted one from the House of Delegates.
“It’s just a really exciting day,” Perreault said in an interview. “Every day, I’m proud to be a tiger, but this day we get to share our pride with everybody else, and so it’s super exciting.”
With Tiger Pride Day being held virtually over the last several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Colquitt said he was happy to be back at the Statehouse.
“It’s really great to be back here in person advocating on behalf of Towson University and the greater Baltimore area,” he said.
The SGA endorsed 13 bills this session, including a senate bill that would require public colleges in Maryland to allow students with an unpaid student account balance of $1,000 or less to request and receive a transcript.
For those with a balance over $1000, the bill would also require universities to allow students to access their transcripts if they enter into a repayment plan within 90 days of their request.
Perreault said she’s in support of the bill. University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman said the governing body will work with the legislator on the bill.
“We’re going to work that out,” he said in an interview. “We understand what the sentiments are. You know I think it’s important that people understand that if they have financial responsibilities, they have to meet them. At the same time, we want our students to get a job. So we don’t want anything to interfere with that.
Legislators attempted to get a similar bill passed during the 2022 session but failed to do so.
Similar legislation was enacted in New York when Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill preventing state schools from withholding transcripts due to outstanding balances in May 2022
Students also lobbied for a bill that would require public elementary and high schools to tell students, parents, faculty and staff the name of their Title IX coordinator. The schools would also be responsible for explaining the process for filing a sexual misconduct complaint and what support is offered for those who file a sexual misconduct complaint, and how to access it.
Senior Devin Kaestner attended Tiger Pride Day because she was required to for a class, but said getting to lobby for the bills was interesting.
She spoke with Republican State Delegate Stuart Schmidt’s office about supporting a bill that would require the state school board to create a financial literacy curriculum.
“The curriculum was not mandatory for at least most of us when we were in high school,” Kaestner said. “So it’s really important that people learn about it because it’s something that we’re going to be using, no matter what, like, no matter your career field, no matter what you go into, you’re gonna need to know financial information, like doing taxes, writing checks, certain things like that.”
Delegate Cathi Forbes, whose district includes Towson University, met with several students and said her job is to advocate for the university community.
“What I learned early in my job is everyone who walks through my door has something important to say to me,” Forbes, a Democrat, said. “And so my job is to listen, and I can’t say yes to everything. But I can understand problems and situations and help people find solutions for it.”
Towson University alumna and State Delegate Regina T. Boyce was another legislator students met with to lobby for the bills.
Boyce, who graduated from Towson in 1998, said participating in Tiger Pride Day is a way for her to give back to the Towson community.
“It’s a good way to give back to my institution by prioritizing [Towson students],” she said. “I think for all students, [because] policy and government and civics feels like a dying subject matter that folks either wanna know or don’t know enough about, so if my door can be open to that, I like it to be.”
In addition to Perreault, several Towson administrators and staff members were in Annapolis on Wednesday. Vice President for Student Affairs Vernon Hurte said he sees his role in Tiger Pride Day as one of support for the students advocating for issues that matter to them.
Student Affairs helped the SGA plan the event.
“It’s just exciting to see students be able to share with legislators … and really take ownership of advocacy and bringing their voice alive,” Hurte said. “The voices of our students, the perspectives of our students are really important and a really important experience that I think our legislators and their staff should hear. That’s really the point of the day.”
After the lobbying meetings, a luncheon was held down the street at the Governor Calvert House. There, Perman spoke to students about the importance of civic responsibility.
“I think the fact that you are here today shows your intentions to lead,” he said. To stand up for what you think is appropriate is necessary. Come and talk with our elected officials who are incredibly supportive, incredibly respectful, champions of higher education.”
In his remarks, Isaiah Thaxton, SGA’s director of legislative affairs, said the visit was about holding elected officials accountable by voicing their concerns.
“Today shows that we are committed to a political process and bettering TU and Maryland,” he said.