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Frequently Asked Questions
How do I contact UT Advocates?
Rachel Osterloh, Advocacy Coordinator, 512-840-5653
Becky Rigas, Advocacy Intern, 512-840-5669
Is UT Advocates a partisan program?
No. UT Advocates is nonpartisan. Our goal is to protect UT’s status as a university of the first class. We organize, inform, and mobilize alumni and friends of the University of Texas at Austin to advocate on its behalf and to support higher education. The UT Advocates are alumni and friends who devote their time and attention to urging legislators and other decision makers to consider carefully individual bills or other matters that affect the university.
Does the Texas Exes endorse candidates?
No, the Texas Exes may not endorse candidates due to state and federal guidelines for tax-exempt nonprofit entities. Our advocacy efforts are focused on preparing alumni to communicate with decision makers on issues that directly affect the university, and providing tools to help them participate in the civic process.
How can I get involved with UT Advocates?
UT Advocates offers a host of programming to keep alumni and friends of the university informed and engaged. Here are a few steps you can take:
- Sign up as an official UT Advocate and receive weekly updates on the issues most important to the university.
- Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for timely updates related to higher education at UT-Austin and in the state.
- Look through our Briefing Room for coverage of today’s top issues. Send a message to your lawmakers via our Action Center on specific higher education issues.
- Sign up as a Longhorn Advocate Mentor to be paired with a student Longhorn from your state senate district and work together on building a relationship with your regional lawmakers.
- Attend Longhorns on the Hill, an annual event in Washington, D.C. to discuss the importance of UT-Austin with the Texas Congressional delegation.
- Participate in Orange & Maroon Legislative Day, a biennial legislative day of action at the Texas Capitol co-hosted by the Texas Exes and Texas A&M’s Association of Former Students.
Does UT Advocates only focus on state government?
The bulk of our time and energy is spent working with the state legislature. As a public research university, issues happening under the pink dome tend to have the biggest impact on our flagship institution. However, through Longhorns on the Hill and targeted federal priorities, we do engage on relevant national policies that affect institutions like UT-Austin.
Can I become a UT Advocate if I am not a Texas Ex?
Yes! All alumni and friends of the University of Texas are welcome and encouraged to sign up as UT Advocates. It is easy and free and you’ll start receiving weekly updates on important issues, calls to action, and invitations to special events.
What is the time commitment for a UT Advocate?
The commitment for a UT Advocate is up to you. You will receive weekly updates on priority issues and developments from the legislature. From time to time, there will be calls to action, from calling your state lawmaker to attending Orange & Maroon Legislative Day every other year. There is a robust offering of additional opportunities including, but not limited to the following:
Becoming a Tier I UT Advocate who helps recruit, inform, and engage fellow UT Advocates in your local area. Tier I Advocates have one or more of the following characteristics:
- Strong ties to the local community
- Interest in identifying and organizing alumni to become UT Advocates
- Existing relationships with decision makers
- Experience with political activism and an interest in supporting the University of Texas
- Serving as a student mentor with our Longhorn Advocates Mentor Program
- Engaging with your Texas Exes Chapter Advocacy Chair or establishing the role in your respective chapter governance structure
- Writing op-ed articles in your local newspapers about urgent issues affecting the university (for guidance about editorial submissions, please contact our office at email@example.com)
- Gathering a group of local alumni and friends of the university for district office visits with your state lawmakers (for assistance in scheduling visits, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Inviting your respective state lawmakers to Texas Exes or UT-affiliated events happening in your community
How are the priorities determined?
The Texas Exes advocacy department works with university administrators to understand the immediate and long-term implications certain policies will have on UT-Austin. Then, with counsel from the Texas Exes Committee on Public Affairs, staff develops recommendations to take to the Texas Exes Board of Directors for our organization’s state and federal priorities. Once the president of the board signals approval, staff consults with members of the committee on public affairs and other leaders to develop a plan of action for the individual priorities.
As a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization, how can the Texas Exes legally get involved in the legislative process?
Our mission is to organize and inform our network of alumni, and then engage them in the process of educating decision makers and community leaders on issues affecting the University of Texas at Austin.
We elect to take the 501(h) exemption, and all of our “lobbying” activities, as defined by the federal codes, are reported.
- Direct lobbying is defined as communication with a legislator, legislative staff, legislative body, or any covered executive branch or other government employee who may participate in the formulation of legislation. The communication refers to a specific piece of legislation and expresses a view on that legislation. The Texas Exes will rarely communicate directly with legislators with the intent to influence specific legislation, and will take the 501(h) exemption to report those instances in which direct communication does occur.
- Grassroots Lobbying is defined as an attempt to influence specific legislation by encouraging the public to contact legislators about that legislation. A communication constitutes grassroots lobbying if it refers to specific legislation, reflects a view on that specific legislation and encourages the recipient of the communication to take lobbying action. This type of communication is known as a call to action. The Texas Exes advocacy efforts involve reaching out to its membership, not the general public, with calls to action for federal legislation.
The Texas Ethics Commission generally interprets the definition of “lobbying” very broadly. We consistently keep in mind the clause that says lobbying is anything that “is intended to generate or maintain goodwill.”
Our advocacy efforts focus on communications with our membership (which include calls to action and general education efforts). We refrain from direct communication with members of the legislature, the Board of Regents, and any other state agencies that is aimed at influencing legislation or the outcome of an official decision. Making a call to action of volunteers is not a direct communication, and therefore not a lobbying activity.