Baylor students reach out to D.C., advocate for Greek housing

By Allyssa Schoonover

Two Baylor students are in Washington, D.C., this week to advocate for a Greek housing bill the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act, or CHIA.

“Basically the bill allows tax exemptions for Greek organizations that have to do renovations or change fire alarms or whatever to make sure that everything is up to code and safe to live in,” said Scottsdale, Ariz., junior Michael Blair.

Monday they went through training sessions to learn more about this bill which will give tax exemptions to nonprofit housing at colleges as well as approaches for how to lobby for it. They were put in teams to practice their approach for Wednesday when they will meet with members of Congress and their staff.

Blair and Hickory Flat, Ga., senior Haley Davis went through an application process and were selected to go on this trip. They were nominated by the nationals of their respective organizations to represent their groups in Washington. There are over 100 Greek students going from schools all over the country.

While Baylor doesn’t have Greek housing, sending student representatives shows Baylor’s support for other Big 12 schools.

“It affects a lot of the Big 12 schools, so that’s why we’re going,” Davis said. “We want to support them.”

Helping out other Big 12 schools will be beneficial if Baylor needs their support in the future.

Blair and Davis will go through training from panels of people who work with members of Congress as well as people who work on the Hill or for consulting firms for a couple of days. Then they will spend all day Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Each student lobbyist will have eight to 12 meetings with members of Congress to talk about the benefits of CHIA. After this they will attend a dinner with senators and representatives who were members of Greek organizations.

The bill specifically aids nonprofit student housing, which will mainly affect Greek housing. The Stacy Riddle Forum is a university building and because the sororities pay rent each year as part of their sorority dues, it will not be affected by this bill.

A lot of Greek houses at other universities are old or historic buildings, so it can be difficult and expensive to update them, Davis said.

By passing the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act, it is likely that more nonprofit housing, not just Greek housing, will be built or maintained across the nation, which could make college more affordable for all students. It would make buildings safer and prevent damages or fires that are not uncommon in older houses.

Blair and Davis also talked with some administrators on campus to prepare for this trip including, Dr. Kevin Jackson, the vice president of student life; Tam Dunn, the associate director of student activities for Greek life; and a few people involved with governmental relations for Baylor. This, accompanied with their training in Washington, D.C., will prepare them to speak with politicians and adequately advocate for this bill and express its benefits, Davis said.