Lobby Day Information
Social Work Empowerment and Advocacy Team is a student organization in the School of Social Work at FAU. Its primary responsibility is to plan the annual trip to the National Association of Social Work’s student Legislative Education and Advocacy Day (formerly known as “Lobby Day”) in Tallahassee. Members of SWEAT plan and implement all elements of the three-day, two-night trip to Tallahassee. Other opportunities for involvement in social policy and social justice movements are also presented through involvement with SWEAT. Dr. LeaAnne DeRigne, Assistant Professor, is the faculty advisor to the group with assistance from Dr. Heather Farineau, Assistant Professor and Keith Platt, Field Faculty. A 110 students attended the 2013 trip.
The dates for this year's trip are April 7-9th, 2014.
To get involved with SWEAT contact Dr. LeaAnne DeRigne at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Legislative Education and Advocacy Day? A Primer
"LEAD" is an annual event that is organized on a statewide basis by the Florida Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Each year, the NASW-FL chapter identifies key legislative issues to follow during the spring legislative session (generally 60 days in March and April). NASW provides information to its members about these issues, so they can participate more effectively in the legislative process (e.g., through contacting their legislators and educating others in their communities). NASW encourages social work students to come to Tallahassee for a special day of civic engagement, which NASW calls LEAD (formerly Lobby Day). On these two days, social work students and others who are interested in social concerns come to the state capital to meet with state legislators (senators, representatives, and their aides), educate them about the concerns of social workers, and advocate for policies that promote social justice and the well-being of social work clients. Typically, LEAD is three day, two-night trip for FAU students. On the first day, students travel to Tallahassee (on a chartered bus) and participate in legislative training conducted by NASW. On the second day, students meet with various legislators and legislative aides (for 3 to 5 hours) followed by a dinner with legislators, former students who work as legislative aides and others. Students return to the capital the next day for an additional 4-5 hours of meetings and attendance at the full sessions of the House and Senate as well as committee meetings. Students return by early evening on Wednesday night.
A meeting with an individual legislator generally lasts from 1 to 15 minutes. Some students make appointments with their own representative and senator, to ensure they will have a chance to meet. Other students simply knock on doors and ask the secretaries if they may speak with the legislators. Students meet with legislators in groups of 3-4, with one student designated as the lead speaker for each meeting. Feedback from various students suggests that LEAD is a unique and transformational experience. They report feeling empowered by talking to legislators, and having them really listen to their concerns. Many students who initially felt they would focus their careers of individual and family practice suggest that LEAD has made them much more interested in community and policy work.
Various schools of social work across the state support LEAD as a learning opportunity, allowing students to put the social work values of social justice and commitment to clients into practice. In particular, students can apply what they are learning in their policy, community, and other classes. The FAU School of Social Work does not require students to participate in LEAD. Further, the FAU School of Social Work does not tell students which topics to advocate for, or against. Each student who decides to participate in Lobby Day may choose which issues to address, and which positions to take. Each student speaks on his or her behalf (see http://www.fau.edu/policies/files/PM95_OCR.pdf for the FAU policy which restricts FAU employees and students from lobbying on behalf of FAU). The FAU School of Social Work encourages professional behavior throughout their LEAD activities, as the way that students present themselves with legislators does reflect on the FAU School of Social Work and the profession of social work. Accordingly, it is important for students to act in a manner that is honest, respectful, and knowledgeable (e.g., using logic, research evidence, and other scholarly material to support their positions). Dress for the bus is "casual-comfortable – dress for meeting with legislators should be business attire (e.g., no jeans or t-shirts; some students wear suits, ties, etc., though these are not required).
The FAU School of Social Work supports participation in LEAD by offering faculty members to assist with planning the event, educating students about legislative advocacy, and escorting students to LEAD. Students through participation in SWEAT – are actually responsible for organizing the event, including making plans for travel, accommodations, fundraising, preparing students for advocacy, and helping small groups of students work together on topics of mutual interest. Some professors may give students credit for participation in LEAD activities, particularly when the students are advocating for topics that relate to course topics (e.g., child welfare issues in a child welfare course, or addictions issues in an addictions course). Given the principles of academic freedom, students are permitted to advocate on issues related to their coursework, but they are not required to advocate for any particular positions.
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