Lobbying Congress, Greek-style
Junior Natalie Yezbick tackles Washington with the backing of her sorority and a handful of powerful movers and shakers
Student Natalie Yezbick is headed to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress. She has a lot on her mind.
On behalf of the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (FGRC), Yezbick, a public relations, communication studies and journalism triple major and a member of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega, will talk to members of Congress about issues such as university housing, insurance policies, the tax code and more. While there, she will be coached by professional lobbyists from the law and advocacy firm Patton Boggs, and will join college students from around the country on the same quest.
According to Yezbick, fraternities and sororities are concerned with topics such as current tax codes that prohibit universities from using charitable donations to improve infrastructure in off-campus student housing, including fraternity and sorority housing. In particular, the students are supporting a bill sponsored by Representative Pete Sessions [R-TX32], the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA), which would allow tax-exempt universities the leeway to make collegiate housing and infrastructure improvement grants to tax-exempt social clubs such as fraternities and sororities. An example of the use of such grants could include the installation of sprinkler systems in older housing units to improve fire safety.
“All students, not just those involved in Greek life or living in Greek housing, benefit from these lobbying efforts,” says Yezbick, who will be in Washington April 27 - May 1. “One of our main goals will be to persuade Congress to remember that far-reaching bills can have a profound effect on all college students.”
Other issues the students will bring up with members of Congress include hazing, student rights to freedom of association and Title IX exemption. Getting their attention may not be a problem. According to Yezbick, 76 percent of all congressmen and senators have at one time been members of Greek fraternities and sororities.
Another organization is helping the students connect with congressmen on collegiate issues: the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC), which, according to Yezbick, works to elect congressional members who understand matters of importance to Greek organizations and the ideals they foster.
“FSPAC is the largest PAC focused only on higher education issues,” she says, noting that FSPAC-backed candidates have won 90 percent of their elections.
Due to graduate in May 2015, Yezbick has a clear vision for her career path: She wants to work in print or broadcast journalism, become a press secretary for a member of Congress and eventually become a contributor for Fox News. “I also want to become an advisor for chapters of both Alpha Chi Omega and Beta Theta Pi,” says Yezbick. “I’d say that’s my life plan ’til I’m 50!”
Greek life has had a huge impact on Yezbick, a devoted member of Alpha Chi Omega, which is providing the funding for her trip. “I would not be the person I am today without the ideals laid out in my sorority’s ritual,” she says. “I am so blessed to be able to combine my love of Greek life and my passion for communications and journalism, and I have the faculty and staff of SMU to thank for that!”
Facts about Greek life on the SMU campus:
Fraternity and sorority life at SMU began in 1915 when the first four fraternity chapters were established. Ninety-four years and tens of thousands of members later, the fraternity and sorority community is vibrant and now offers 28 national fraternities and sororities.