BY MEGHAN PASQUARRETTE, STAFF WRITER
A Susquehanna student actively participated in U.S. Congress law-making procedures in Washington, D.C., this week, representing the 652,000 undergraduate students in Greek organizations across the nation.
That student was John Rehm.
Rehm, a sophomore and member of Phi Mu Delta, was selected to be a student lobbyist at the 2013 Fraternal Government Relations Coalition (FGRC) Congressional visits held from April 20-24. Rehm is one of 100 students in the nation representing the Greek community and was sponsored by a U.S. congressman and the Phi Mu Delta National Fraternity. This week, he has been communicating with members of Congress about issues facing college students, specifically students in fraternities and sororities.
“I never saw myself joining a fraternity, and now I’m representing one,” Rehm said.
The Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FSPAC) is trying to get bills passed in Congress, specifically the College Housing and Infrastructure Act (CHIA). Objectives of the FGRC are to educate Congress members about the current Greek life students’ experience, emphasize challenges like safer and affordable housing, explain the benefits of CHIA, encourage Congressional leaders to include this act in 2013 tax reform and tackle the issue of hazing. The CHIA supports more affordable, self-sustaining off-campus housing, safer off-campus housing and stricter laws on hazing, Rehm said. Safer off-campus housing could be applied to any organization with off-campus housing, not just Greek Life.
Rehm said he was intimidated to be a lobbyist. He never saw himself going to D.C. as more than an observer interested in governmental affairs.
“When I was younger I was afraid to try something new at a Chinese restaurant, and now I’m going to Congress,” Rehm said. The idea of being surrounded by more experienced members of larger fraternities was daunting, he said.
At the same time, he was looking forward to the experience and meeting others who were interested in being involved in the government. Rehm said being chosen for the position was an honor.
“It is a great opportunity to represent both Phi Mu Delta and Susquehanna,” Rehm said, especially because there were few small schools being represented.
To be a student lobbyist, Rehm filled out a campus profile sheet, which provided detailed information about the university regarding student population, Greek percentage and other demographic information. The Student Government Association approved a resolution stating the student body in general was in support of the bill, and it received a letter of support from President L. Jay Lemons.
The 100 representatives were put into groups with two students and three experienced alumni. Rehm’s group was named the Susquehanna Crusaders. On Monday and Tuesday, Rehm learned the basics of being an effective lobbyist through sessions about Greek Life’s relation to government, important government topics, the legislative process and Capitol Hill etiquette. The training days were used to develop a plan of attack for persuading congressmen to support the bill on Wednesday and Thursday, said Rehm.
He said it was interesting to learn the lobbying process and satisfying to know that he played a part in trying to make a change in the government.
Rehm said: “Don’t be afraid to take a step back and see the bigger picture.”