Greek Fly-In Day Put Undergrads in the Spotlight
When the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition took to Capitol Hill last week, it was helped by dozens of undergraduate fraternity and sorority leaders from around the country who made the trek to DC. FGRC lets students play a major part in its fly-in event.
Spring is a busy time on Capitol Hill with myriad groups holding legislative fly-ins to bring their message directly to members of Congress. That’s exactly what the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition was doing in DC last week, but #GreekDC—FGRC’s event—had a distinctly youthful exuberance that you might not find at your typical Hill Day.
That’s because a majority of the group’s delegation was composed of undergraduate students. Dozens of fraternity and sorority leaders were invited to the nation’s capital to help deliver FGRC’s message to lawmakers.
“It’s a great way to personalize the experience,” said Peter Smithhisler, president and CEO of the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), an FGRC member organization. “We’ve been doing it about 10 years, and we get usually around 750 to 900 applications from student leaders across the country who are interested in being a part of the event.”
The students were grouped together with leaders from FGRC, NIC, the National Panhellenic Conference, and the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee, and took to the Hill, pushing a number of agenda items—among them college affordability, passing the Collegiate Housing Infrastructure Act, and addressing sexual assault on college campuses.
“What makes it unique and kind of special is that intergenerational aspect of our Hill Team visits,” Smithhisler said. “The opportunity to bring students to the Hill to help tell the fraternities and sororities story helps policymakers understand who they’re working with, why we’re advocating for the things that we are, and ensures that the depth of breadth of the fraternity experience is known.”
Of course, there was plenty training and education involved in the days leading up to the actual Hill Day. FGRC brought in experts to help students and other fly-in novices understand what kind of setting they’d be walking into and to train them on things like the policy items and engaging with members of Congress.
“The two students who I lobbied with are both political science majors, and both want to pursue careers in government and policymaking, and so they were very excited to be involved in the process, to see what it’s actually like, and to practice their skills to prepare themselves for interviews,” said Smithhisler.
The experience as a whole is a win-win for the organization and the students, he explained.
“It allows us to proactively showcase the positive aspect of the fraternity experience and creates a connection between the leadership skills that we teach at the undergraduate level to real-life situations,” Smithhisler said. “And for us as a trade association, anytime we can involve our membership in our activity, it increases their understanding of the purpose of their membership. It’s a direct reflection on the benefit of their dues. All the while, we’re also advancing our agenda, we’re achieving our stated goals, and we are making good use of their resources and time.”
(Fraternal Government Relations Coalition)