Since 2002, fraternity and sorority members from universities across North America have made a trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby lawmakers on issues of importance to students and alumni. The focus of the spring visit to Capitol Hill is the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA). If passed, CHIA would allow donations that are made to build or improve fraternity and sorority housing to be tax deductible. CHIA is a part of a comprehensive legislative agenda established by the Fraternal Government Relations Caucus. The agenda also includes preservation of the single gender experience, protections for freedom of association and due process rights and further protections that ensure the Clery Act properly applies to our members and volunteers. The annual spring congressional visit, hosted by Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC), gives students the chance to participate in the political process, meet with legislators and their staff and advocate for issues that directly impact the collegiate experience.
SPRING 2017 CAPITOL HILL VISIT
Five collegiate Tri Delta women were selected to join this year’s lobbying effort on April 25-27. Holly Bard, Southern California, Katie Gwyn, Washington, Kendell Kamansky, Vermont, and Kelly Nefzger, Arkansas, were selected from a pool of more than 600 applicants. In addition, Julia Martin, Georgia, participated for the third time in her role as a Student Director on the FSPAC Board of Directors.
The students were joined by Tri Delta’s Executive Board Director Nicole Hughes, Washington State; Foundation Board Trustee Mary Ann Heyser Wright, William & Mary; Past FSPAC President, Past Fraternity President and NPC Delegate Sarah Coons Lindsay, Miami/Ohio; Past Fraternity President and FSPAC Board Director Phyllis Durbin Grissom, Southern Methodist; Chief Executive Officer Karen White, Georgia; and Vice President of External Affairs and Extension Stacy Gillard, Illinois State.
After a full day of preparations, 50 teams each made up of two students and two alumni hit the ground running; each team attended anywhere from 8 to 12 meetings in House and Senate offices across the Capitol, and the goal of each meeting was to secure a co-sponsor for the bill. At the conclusion of the effort the teams had met with more than 400 lawmakers and gained 24 new CHIA co-sponsors.
Of her experience on The Hill, Kelly Nefzger noted, “The promise of preserving the incredible organizations of which we are a part and providing members with more affordable housing opportunities is not beyond our reach. It is something worth advocating for, and I was honored to play a role in the effort.”
TAKE ACTION TODAY
- #PassCHIA: Congress plans to consider a comprehensive tax reform, and we need to ensure CHIA (H.R. 1200/S. 736) is included in that conversation. Contact your state representatives and senators online to ask them to co-sponsor the bill.
- Share your political network: We are working to address broader issues that impact the fraternal experience, including new federal protections for single-sex organizations. To accomplish this, we need access to a strong network of Greek government-affiliated alumni to help deliver our message at the state and federal levels. Take a few moments to complete this brief advocacy survey.
- Donate to the FSPAC: To ensure continued Greek involvement on Capitol Hill, visit fspac.org/donate to make a donation on behalf of Tri Delta.
The House of Representatives will likely be considering hazing legislation this summer. The bill is expected to require schools to report incidents of hazing along with other required reports of crimes that happen on campus. The leadership of the Fraternal Government Relations Caucus has been invited to provide input into the bill’s contents. We will continue to monitor the progress of the bill as a part of Congress’s broader efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The Higher Education Act defines the federal government’s involvement in higher education policy. It was most recently reauthorized in 2008.