We have had a very busy fall semester here in Anchorage!
Our first meeting after having Fernando from the Leadership Institute helping us recruit, had around 20 people turn out, including a State Representative! It was great to see such a large turnout; we were scrambling to pull extra chairs from around the library in order to accommodate everyone.
Representative Liz Vazquez addressed our members, covering the legislative process in Juneau and the most effective ways to communicate with our representatives; she spoke on Medicaid expansion in Alaska, after our governor decided to expand via executive order, bypassing the legislature, and the status of the lawsuit filed by the legislature. Rep. Vazquez also provided us a recent report by the Alaska Dept. of Corrections in order to assist with our Incarceration Nation event that we held this past week. Finally, Rep. Vazquez expressed her support to our members who are planning to work with the legislature, the University, and the Alaska community to allow permitted concealed carry on public universities.
Next, we found out about a proposed 9% tuition increase across the University of Alaska system. After only being notified about a week prior to the hearing, we sprung into action. First, we set up a petition on change.org in order to gather signatures against the increase in a way that could easily be shared on social media and other electronic means. After that was taken care of, we pushed paperwork through the University bureaucracy in order to secure tabling space in the days leading up to the hearing so that we could gather further signatures and raise awareness about the proposed increase. Finally, we had students show up at the Board of Regents hearing in order to testify against the increase. We were one of the few student groups to turn up to testify, and it resulted in some media coverage! The above picture is of one of our members testifying at the hearing and it headlines the article published in the ADN. We received coverage in the major newspaper for Alaska, the Alaska Dispatch News, in addition to coverage by our campus newspaper and radio station. Due in part to our efforts, the Board of Regents compromised and passed a 5% tuition increase to take effect in the Fall of 2016.
The day after the Board of Regents hearing, we hosted a V for Vendetta watch party on our campus (On November 5, of course!). We hosted the event in our Student Union. We had pretty good turnout, but were very disappointed by the service we received from the Student Union staff. After being assured over and over that the AV equipment would be set up and ready for us (we were charged $25 for this service, in addition to the $20 room rental), issues with the AV equipment resulted in a 30 minute delay. Not quite the impression we wanted to make. On the bright side, we were refunded both the AV and rental fee due to the failure on the part of the SU staff. Future events we will be sure to not rely on the SU staff to furnish the equipment, or know what they are doing.
This week, we hosted our Incarceration Nation event! After receiving our materials and activism grant, we got to work constructing our mock prison.
First stop was our local hardware store to purchase the PVC pipe…and then going back to the store to return endcaps for ones that actually fit over the ends of the pipe! Once that minor issue was rectified, we began construction.
With the assistance of my Dad, we got to work. We laid the pipe out and decided it best to glue first and then paint, which was different from the instructions on the website. We decided to go this route so that the PVC glue would not drip and be visible on top of the paint, and so that the prison would not require additional touch ups.
After we got it all stuck together, it was time to paint. It was a cold day in Alaska, so we had to paint with the garage door shut, which was not ideal due to the fumes, but we made it work.
After the paint had dried, we affixed our sign and began our event tabling in the Student Union.
We found it harder than expected to get students to pose behind our mock prison, but having it leaning against the front of our table did generate some great conversation!
For whatever reason, our usually very busy Student Union was very quiet the week of our event. We were able to get about 15 sign ups in three days of tabling, and had a few new members show up at our discussion which took place on Thursday. We had a very engaging discussion about how best to address the Alaska State Legislature on civil asset forfeiture and mandatory minimums. We identified areas where we need to have information in order to put forth suggestions to our legislature.
Our YAL chapter doesn’t have anything planned for the rest of the semester as finals are fast approaching. However, we do plan to have an end of semester bowling party to celebrate the end of finals week and strategize for the spring semester! More to come from Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Alaska Anchorage!Published in