Shoreline Community College students are preparing to host a Teach-In/Speak Out Day on Wednesday, Nov. 16, in to draw attention to the impacts of potential budget cuts facing higher education.
“It is inspiring to work with students who take personal responsibility for learning enough to speak-out publicly to policy makers and seek their support,” said Stephen Smith, Vice President for Human Resources and Legal Affairs. “ Every employee is in some way engaged in supporting students and their learning experience here at Shoreline.”
However, Smith said, it is also important that employees understand the difference between appropriately supporting students and their activities and potentially crossing the legal line to inappropriate advocacy activities as state employees.
“Please consider important points about our state laws,” Smith said. State law generally prohibits college employees from “participating in or assisting in an effort to lobby the state Legislature.” Lobbying is defined as any effort to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation, including the state budget.
“While Student Body Association (SBA) officers are also college employees, state law also specifically allows student government associations to engage in lobbying activity,” Smith said.
State law also generally prohibits the use of state funds, property, or equipment, including work time, for any lobbying activity. This means the college cannot decide to use money, time, or property to support lobbying activity.
“However, we may be state employees, but we are also private citizens,” Smith said. “State employees may use non-work time to express their personal views on their own behalf.”
Assuming an appropriate set of circumstances, Smith also noted some general guidelines for effective advocacy, including:
Speak for yourself, and be clear that you do not represent anyone beyond yourself. (Legally, you can only represent yourself.)
Speak about your own experience. Your personal experiences will be more persuasive than generalized statistics or expressions of group opinions.
Distinguish your personal opinions from objective facts.
If you use data, be sure it is available for review and cite your source(s).
Consider the “other side” and be familiar with both questions and answers that challenge your position.
“The students are working to make their voices heard in the correct, respectful and legal manner,” Smith said. “I’m confident that Shoreline employees want to do the same to make sure the message is heard.”