The OSLA: Making your voice heard in the capitol

Left to right: Erik Brazil, Brita Norvold, Joav Gomez, Sunny Ho, and Neil Lindquist discussing new responsibilities.
Left to right: Erik Brazil, Brita Norvold, Joav Gomez, Sunny Ho, and Neil Lindquist discussing new responsibilities.

The Office of Student Legislative Affairs (OSLA) may be mysterious and overlooked in its corner in the Student Programs office, but in a few weeks, this student run and student led committee will make notable changes to better represent current and future Bellevue College students.

According to the OSLA’s vision, the committee “will amass a student lead organization that serves to represent the collective voice of the students of Bellevue College in local, state, and federal governance, by civically empowering students to advocate for the state of affairs by which they believe to be true and just.”

In other words, the organization will attempt to represent the “collective voice” of the BC student body on pertinent legislation by asking for input from students, providing valuable information to students and lobbying issues in Olympia.

The changes made for this year’s OSLA are in an effort to better serve BC students.

This year, the OSLA has hired seven new employees—increasing the staff from two members to nine—in order to expand the committee and publicize the organization in hopes of gaining student body involvement.

Without student involvement, the OSLA cannot accurately represent the interests of BC students.

In accordance with the Associated Students of Bellevue College (ASBC)’s by-laws, the OSLA is responsible for “solicit[ing] and document[ing] feedback from at least five percent of the student body prior to submitting a draft ASBC Legislative Agenda and Guiding Principles to the ASG Board of Directors for approval.”

What that means for BC students is that the OSLA cannot take an official stance and represent BC students on any legislative issues without collecting information from at least five percent of the student body.

Because of the aforementioned by-law, many students received an email in their inboxes a couple of weeks ago from the OSLA.

The OSLA sent out a Student Legislative Survey in an attempt to gather information regarding the opinions of BC students concerning legislative issues such as tuition, four-year degrees, financial aid, open textbooks, student trustees and so on.

The OSLA staff has also collected survey responses on campus.

From the results of these surveys and other information gathered from the BC student body, the OSLA will be able to take an official stance on legislative issues and accurately represent their peers. 

To help meet their goals for this year, the OSLA has adopted an efficient strategy and divided itself into three teams.

The Director of Legislative Affairs (Marcus Sweetser), will work closely with the Assistant Director (Jessica Darmawan), Community Relations Coordinator (Neil Lindquist) and Strategic Consultant and Project Manager (Jacob Peltier), who returned to the Legislative Committee after creating it in the fall of 2008 during his term as Associated Student Government (ASG) President.

Peltier will work with the Research and Analysis Coordinator (Joav Gomez) and Professional Development Coordinator (Erik Brazil). As a sub-team they will focus on one, creating policy and the mechanisms to enact said policy, and two, ensuring that the program is sustainable for years to come.

The second sub-team, led by Darmawan, will include Communications and Marketing Coordinator (Nathan Yaffee), Events and Civics Coordinator (Yu Chak Sunny Ho) and Volunteer and Campus Organizing Coordinator (Brita Norvold).

This sub-team is dedicated to raising student awareness and student participation through different avenues such as public forums and although no guarantees have been made, potential pizza parties.

Finally, according to Sweetser, he and Lindquist will work as the “face off campus.” They will mostly work in Olympia, lobbying issues, making new contacts and bringing information from the state capitol back to BC.

Also, during this year’s legislative session, Sweetser will be living and working in Olympia as a full time lobbyist.

“This is the first year in Washington State history that a community college’s students will send a student lobbyist to the state capitol. That’s our motto: ‘if it’s spoken on campus, then we want it heard in the capitol,” said Sweetser.

Each new hire has an extensive resume and appear to be dedicated individuals, but only time will tell how dedicated they truly are.

As a team, they hope to achieve many of their objectives.

“The more we work together, the more we accomplish,” said Lindquist during the OSLA’s first meeting last Tuesday. 

The current two-desk cubicle the OSLA is working in cannot accommodate the expanded staff. Therefore, in a couple of weeks, the OSLA will move into a new office space next to the ASG. With more room to move around, the OSLA can increase their productivity and hopefully, their publicity.

This year’s changes in the OSLA to better represent the students of BC could mean substantial achievements in Olympia, including the passage of a bill. If BC were to pass a bill in Olympia, it would be the first community college in Washington State history to do so.

“The OSLA doesn’t make campaign contributions.  We aren’t your typical lobbyists.  But, as students, we have something more powerful than they do.  We don’t need clever talking points or political savvy.  Our talking points are our lives and the merits of our issues are grounded in our individual stories.  Collectively, our voices can shake up the capitol, and in fact, it is the only thing that ever has,” said Sweetser.