Lobby Day Information
SWEAT is the Social Work Empowerment and Advocacy Team. It is a student run organization that plans the annual trip to the NASW student Lobby Day in Tallahassee. Dr. LeaAnne DeRigne, Assistant Professor, is the faculty advisor to the group. To get involved in this year's trip complete your membership form by clicking on the link below:
The dates for this year's trip is April 8-10th, 2013.
Our SWEAT leaders for the2012-2013 academic year are:
President – Jenifer Coronell
Co-President – Terese Caruso
Vice President – Christina Hirz
Treasurer – Laurie McKeefry
Secretary – Dyana Hagan
Fundraisers – Jennifer Lopez, Vianey Delgado, and Tedra Diaz
What is Lobby Day? A Primer
"Lobby Day" is an annual event that is organized on a state-wide 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 Lobby Day. On this day, 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 aids), educate them about the concerns of social workers, and advocate for policies that promote social justice and the well-being of social work clients. The name Lobby Day is a bit misleading, since students are not lobbyists, but interested students. Typically, Lobby Day is actually two days. 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 aids (for 3 to 5 hours), and then return home. Oh yes, there is also time for having some interesting meals, networking with students from various schools, having a pep rally, and watching movies on the bus.
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 Lobby Day 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 Lobby Day has made them much more interested in community and policy work.
Various schools of social work across the state support Lobby Day 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 Lobby Day. 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 Lobby Day 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 Lobby Day by offering faculty members to assist with planning the event, educating students about legislative advocacy, and escorting students to Lobby Day. Students – through their Acolyte and Phi Alpha Honors organizations – 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 Lobby Day 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.
Lobby Day 2011 – FAU School of Social Work Goes to the Capitol
“Let her speak! Let her speak!” This highly-charged chant led by advocates during a Senate Committee meeting on Immigration was just one of the exciting experiences of Lobby Day 2011. At one point, security was brought in to “manage the crowd”. FAU students – a record 110 - attended various Senate/Legislative committee meetings on education, healthcare, autism, immigration, budget cuts and social work safety during the two-day Tallahassee trip.
Another interesting Lobby Day highlight included a group of FAU students who delivered their powerful message through very creative means. Students presented legislators (including the Governor’s office) with pill bottles. Each container enclosed a sobering letter about loved ones who had been lost to prescription drug overdoses. The deleterious effects of widespread “pain pill mills” were communicated through this unique presentation.
On Monday, April 4, students attended an advocacy training session sponsored by NASW. One FAU student had the opportunity to participate in a role play activity, which demonstrated the challenges an advocate may face when speaking with legislators. FAU was well-represented at the training session! We nearly doubled our attendance this year, compared to 2010. Also, several students advocated for more effective treatment modalities for men and women with substance abuse issues. Two SWEAT members met with a key staff member of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, who provided pertinent resources and statistics regarding the positive results of drug treatment programs. Another SWEAT member advocated for the Bridges of America program, which supports substance abuse treatment over incarceration. In fact a week later that very legislator came to Bridges for a site-visit organized by one of our MSW students. Many students previously scheduled appointments with legislators and instrumental staff regarding their advocacy issues.
On the bus ride home from Tallahassee, students shared their experiences, insights, and questions regarding their individual and group legislative meetings, the personal tour of the new and old Capitol buildings, committee meetings, and just the overall Tallahassee law-making experience. As one student reflected, “I was able to witness our social work policy class put into action at Lobby Day.” Students also commented about the “great bonding experience and getting to know other social work and social justice students.”
Special thanks to Dr. LeaAnne DeRigne, Assistant Professor, and Linda Laviano, Adjunct Professor, and SWEAT officers and members for making 2011 a record-attending, great success. Join us next year as we continue to promote social justice and social work policy!
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