ABTS winter conference to set legislative agenda for student governments
This weekend, student leaders representing many of the 14 Big Ten universities will gather at Michigan State University for the Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS) winter conference, setting the stage for the group’s legislative agenda this year.
ABTS, an advocacy group representing undergraduate students that attend Big Ten Schools – more than 500,000, advocate at the local, state and national level to ensure the student voice is heard by elected officials.
The group consists of student governments around the Big Ten, as well as students passionate about student’s rights and advocacy.
Samantha Geisinger, a Penn State student in the Eberly College of Science, serves as the executive director of ABTS and has served in the organization for the past three years.
She oversees the group’s executive staff and helps with the communication between student governments around the geographically dispersed Big Ten campuses.
Giesinger served in the past as conference director of ABTS and has a hand in the planning of the weekend’s events.
“There’s very different goals at each conference. At both the winter and summer [conference] we pass legislation based on a national level. Some of the things we focused on in the past is college transparency, higher education act and information sharing,” Geisinger said in a conversation with The Underground.
“We’ve done a lot with Title IX and mental health stuff. We pass legislation in those conferences and in the winter we have our whole legislative platform which is where we set our agenda or overarching goals for Big Ten on the Hill (the spring conference held in Washington, D.C.),” she continued.
The legislative docket for the winter conference features of variety of legislation, including supporting a Middle Eastern/North African Identity Category in demographic data collection, support of a clean DREAM Act and supporting the College Textbook Affordability Act.
Schools are able to sponsor legislation at each conference, if interested. While Penn State did not sponsor any legislation this conference, University Park Undergraduate Association vice president Alex Shockley said during the group’s weekly assembly meeting that they would consider voting for the legislation presented.
However, due to weather, members from UPUA will no longer be able to attend the conference.
“Not everything could pass [this weekend], but we give information to the schools of how we can better lobby on these things to better help our schools,” Geisinger added.
Not only do student leaders gather to set the legislative agenda at the conference, but get a chance to meet the hosting university’s leadership as well as brainstorm ideas through roundtables focused on topics including academic affairs, health and wellness and environmental sustainability.
As the group continues to gain momentum, Geisinger hopes that the group will be sustainable year after year.
“Long term, I want ABTS to be stable enough so when there’s this transition of student leadership every year, ABTS doesn’t take a hit,” she said. “When I leave, I want stability and I want it to succeed.”