The Boston College chapter of the national grassroots organization Students for Education Reform (SFER) is planning a phone bank and tweetathon to urge senators not to confirm Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's nominee for the Secretary of Education, in Eagle's Nest today from 3 to 5 p.m.
The event page on Facebook reads: "Stop by for 2 minutes, or stay the whole 2 hours—whatever works for you. You don't need to be an SFER member or know anyone in the club to come. This event is meant to give BC students an opportunity to take action and make their voices heard."
According to SFER BC President Maria Khoudary, MCAS '19, the event was planned after the chapter expressed concerns about DeVos's policy positions, lack of qualifications, and lack of even basic knowledge of education policy that were revealed during her confirmation hearing.
DeVos, a wealthy donor and former chairwoman of the Republican Party in Michigan, has advocated for school choice through a voucher program that provides funding for students to attend private or charter schools.
Although SFER National supports school choice, the organization is particularly worried about the future of public education, as not all students will be covered by the voucher system.
"[DeVos's] belief in vouchers further underscores her lack of faith, or even distaste, for public schooling," said Khoudary. "If her solution to failing public schools is to put kids into private and charter schools, then what is going to happen to the public school system? What will happen to the students who don't qualify for vouchers but can't afford private school?"
Khoudary further criticized the charter schools DeVos advocated for in Michigan, where math and reading test scores are actually below the state average for public schools.
Additionally, DeVos has no other personal experience with public education, as neither she nor her children have ever attended a public school.
Another concern particularly relevant to college students is her lack of a strong stance on student loans and college debt.
"As college students, we have been put in this position of enormous privilege—a position that many may not find themselves in if DeVos is confirmed," remarked Khoudary. "It is our duty to stay vigilant and use that privilege to oppose any legislation or executive action that is detrimental to the progression of our society. We want our national administration to know that we are watching them, that we care about the future of our country, and that we will not stay silent when we see that future threatened."
SFER BC welcomes any students who share their concerns about DeVos to join the phonebank and tweetathon this afternoon.
As for how the event will work, SFER BC will be instructing participants to call, tweet, and email senators for the best chance of garnering their attention. "Calling senators is the best way to reach them, but they don't always take calls from people who aren't their constituents. This is where Twitter comes in—they can't stop us from tweeting at them," noted Khoudary. "And the idea for emails actually came from our past president, Rayna Wang. She shared a website with me that generates emails to your senators based on your zip code, and we'll actually be using that today."
"I really just wanted to give people an easy way to help make a difference," Khoudary continued. "Beginning with the Women's March, I have found taking action to be the most powerful form of comfort and empowerment when I'm feeling terrified and helpless. I'm hoping that this event will help some people feel the same."