Editorial on a TRU Day retrospective, by Michael Burton
After writing an extensive article about TRU Day, which I am sure all of you read and enjoyed immensely, it seemed inappropriate to back out and say, “This is important, but it is for other people to handle.” So I put my money where my pen is and volunteered, along with about eight others, to make the long road trip up to Salem.
The road trip there and back again was uneventful, but I would like to take the time out to call out the Oregon Tech baseball team on their excessive consumption of sunflower seeds, as well as their insufficient cleanup methods. I know it was you, boys. The bus smelled of Canada. Also, Wes Loy confirmed it.
At any rate, we arrived in Salem at about 9 p.m. on Monday, May 15 and promptly took advantage of the exotic local cuisine and myriad excellent restaurants by visiting a cheap Mexican restaurant. Please note that this is not a knock on neither the restaurant itself nor the people who chose it, for the food was quite satisfactory. I simply find it surprising that we elected to eat Mexican food that could also likely be found in Klamath Falls when a Japanese eatery was open nearby. Again, to be fair, it was late and nearly everything else was closed.
We woke up early next morning (well, others woke up – I was unable to sleep at all due to the apocalyptic snoring of my roommate, sadly) and drove straight for the capitol. What a sight it was, all gleaming and white! And what a collection of characters had assembled on its steps, huddled in the morning rain.
Coffee and doughnuts were served as promised, and who else showed up but Hootie?
I would like to take a moment to thoroughly compliment and congratulate Hootie for a sterling performance on the steps of the capitol. While the other mascots made an appearance, none had the same outstanding charisma nor the hypnotic dance moves of our feathered mascot. Hootie, you did an excellent job.
The next few hours were spent first exploring the inside of the capitol building and admiring the portraits taken of past state governors. After about an hour and a half had elapsed, we were all filed off to speak to our respective district representatives. Oregon Tech in this case has two, Representative Reschke for Klamath Falls, and Representative Vial for Wilsonville.
After speaking them for about an hour about what to expect for the rest of the day (which included a short exchange between Brendan Nikola and Vial in Japanese – that was something to witness) before spending another hour receiving training about how to interact with our senators and representatives that we were assigned. This was when I started to notice something odd. Indeed, in reviewing my last TRU Day article, I was able to confirm this oddity.
In my past article, I stated that students would not be interacting directly with senators and representatives. This article was edited at length by VP of Finance, Brian Fox as well as Dr. Erin Foley. But this statement was not true; the entire point of TRU Day, as it turns out, was to interact with our state legislators.
This confusion on the part of the Oregon Tech students was not merely confined to our school. One miserable football player of WOU (splendid chap, very tall, can’t recall his name) said he had expected to leave at around lunch, and now he was worried about his vehicle being impounded because of the time limit on where he parked. I had the poor man in two of my three legislator meetings, and he became tongue-tied on both occasions; what he was doing plainly scared the hell out of him.
An even more unfortunate case were two French exchange students who had volunteered for TRU Day and now found themselves faced with the prospect of speaking to foreign politicians, something they were not enthused about.
“We just wanted a day in Salem,” said one, Elise was her name I think. “We did not zhink we would be speaking to ze representatives.”
I am not sure what kind of communication error occurred here, but I have a hard time believing that this many students from this many schools could have made the same error without some kind of coordinated obfuscation attempt by the faculty. Or maybe, perhaps, we were all just willfully stupid and came to the same conclusion that we would spend the day making our presence felt in more broad terms (waving signs and the like) rather than coming face to face with our state legislators and asking them in frank terms for an additional hundred million dollars in funding.
Rechecking the email that contains our itinerary notes that 1-5 p.m. would be spent in “Legislative Meetings” which is as accurate as it is vague. All I know for certain is that a lot of students were not aware that they would be speaking to Oregon state legislators (or their staff) in a personal setting until they had already arrived at the capitol. If this was not a coordinated effort by these schools to ensnare students to provide assistance without notifying them of the full extent of their involvement, then I would politely request a more thorough explanation from the involved faculty should we do another TRU Day. This holds for the other schools as well, because of course they read the Edge; it is fabulous.
Aside from that minor comedy of errors, TRU Day was quite the experience. While I was not lucky (or unlucky; I heard some horror stories about how some of the meetings went down) enough to speak to any of the representatives myself, their staff were quite helpful and far less intimidating to work with. I got to acquaint myself with some new students here at Oregon Tech (as shown in the picture) as well as meet students from the other technical universities who were all lovely.
Spending a day in the capitol gave me a better perspective on both how our state is run, as well as its overall history. It is strange to look back at a time when Oregon was the frontier, founded by trappers and settlers surrounded by wilderness on all sides, rather than what it is today. It also gave me a deeper appreciation for our faculty and their efforts to keep the school running. They were running the show, and were right there alongside us when it came time to meet the legislators.
At the end of it, I was exhausted but immensely satisfied by the experience. I had never done anything like this before, and to inch closer to the actual internal mechanical functions of how our country works is a fascinating and intimidating experience, one I hope to repeat in the future. I would strongly encourage anyone who has the time, should another TRU Day roll around, to sign up for it. The food is free, the lodgings are free, and Dr. Foley makes great company on the long bus drive north and south. Just please also bear in mind this article: you will talk to representatives and senators. This is a terrifying prospect, but not an insurmountable one. Do not let it put you off. But do be aware of it.
It was a tremendous experience. I hope the other Oregon Tech students who attended feel the same way.