Photo by Tom Hightower

In an effort to help bring concerns of Tech students to the state capitol, SGA Vice President of External Affairs Evan Gillon created the Ramblin’ Reps. The group of students will represent the thoughts of the student body, through SGA at the capitol.

“We work with the [Undergraduate House of Representatives],” Gillon said. “If [UHR] reps feel moved in order to pass a resolution, then they’re the ones that come up with the language; they’re the ones who actually give us the authority and voice the opinion of the student body.”

The program is unique as it is one of the few in the country where a university sends students to its state capitol to talk with representatives about student issues.

The first such program, Cards in Action, originated at University of Louisville and is known as the “political advocacy arm of SGA.”

“It was their idea to expand it to other universities,” Gillon said. “…t was something that both Lizzie Lisenby had thought about in her platform and I thought about independently, so it was something that people have wanted in some form for some time.”

The program being run at Tech has 11 members now. They were selected through an interview process with Gillon and his two government relations co-chairs. After the members were chosen, they were trained by Casey Aultman, manager of state relations in the Government & Community Relations department at Tech.

The reps then received guidance from Gillon before being ready to represent Tech students at the capitol. Because midterm elections are happening this year, state legislators are not proposing many controversial bills.

“People are definitely being a bit more careful,” Gillon said, “especially since Amazon is coming in as well. It’s good for us, as a first year, to go down and get used to advocating for Tech.”

While this leaves less work for the Ramblin’ Reps the semester, they also advocate for Tech’s legislative priorities. This year’s priorities largely hinged around funding for the second phase on the library project taking place in the next couple of years.

“This year, the main focus is the library project,” Gillon said, “and we’re really lucky because it was funded in full. It’s just a matter of going and being really nice to [the state reps], and they love it. When you have students come down and say, ‘thank you so much for all the things that you do,’ it’s actually really effective. And they actually specifically asked for it when we went down for Research Institute Day at the capitol.”

Gillon sees this semester as a time to set up relationships for the future, specifically regarding controversial bills that could appear after elections are over. One such bill, last year’s House Bill 51, is not scheduled to be heard again this year, but could pop up later.

“This year, the resolution [in UHR] was passed for the sexual assault legislation,” Gillon said, “and we’re actually going to go and talk about it even though there’s not a bill specifically regarding it. It’ll really just be going and saying, ‘Hey, this is something that’s on our minds that we identified as a pressing issue at Tech.’”

Moving forward, Gillon sees the Ramblin’ Reps being an important tool for students and SGA. Due to restructuring within SGA, UHR reps will be given more power next year, allowing the VP of external affairs more time to focus on the Ramblin’ Reps program. Gillon hopes that with restructuring, the Ramblin’ Reps will push SGA to do more.

“In the past,” Gillon said, “SGA hasn’t really acted on a political issue until they’ve been backed into a corner. I really want to see this push other parts of SGA to change how they think about how they can impact campus and make them aware about what’s going on in this state politically.”

When asked about what students who are not a part of SGA can do, Gillon encouraged students to come to UHR sessions.

“That’s why we have open forum at the beginning of SGA,” Gillon said, “which is
underutilized.”