New representatives look forward to House session
With first-time legislators taking office in the Michigan House of Representatives this season, the Allendale and Pew campuses of Grand Valley State University are focusing on making new government allies.
Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville) and Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) are beginning their first terms as state representatives, leaving GVSU with no veteran spokespersons on the state level.
However, university officials are hopeful that the legislators will serve the institution well.
“I hope and expect that, as representatives from districts that include Grand Valley, that they will be supporters of higher education,” said Matt McLogan, vice president of university relations for GVSU.
McLogan added that the previous Allendale representative, Amanda Price, “will remain, I’m confident, a friend to the university.” Price continues to serve in the House in a different district due to the reconfiguration taking effect this year.
McLogan said the district shift itself is not indicative of changes for GVSU.
“What matters is who the representatives are and their attitudes toward higher education,” McLogan said.
He has spoken with Victory and Brinks and said they are, so far, cooperative with the institution. “I have found them to be in each case interested in the university and desirous of more information,” McLogan said. “They have said things to me that I consider to be supportive of higher education.”
Victory said he is looking forward to developing a relationship with GVSU and hearing its concerns. The representative is already informed about higher education funding in the state and looks to improve appropriations during his term.
“When it comes to state funding, Grand Valley is a very efficiently run university,” Victory said, adding that it often ends up being penalized for doing the right things. “I feel we need to work on efficiencies, and those who meet those efficiencies should be shown gratitude, too.”
Brinks said she also intends to address funding concerns during her term.
“I have an interest in making sure we’re discussing adequate funding for higher education,” Brinks said. She added that she does not want the state to cut K-12 funding to provide for other things in the budget, but she aims to keep higher education affordable.
As far as higher education policy goes, Victory has nothing up his sleeves quite yet, as he is awaiting committee assignments.
However, he said he will not remain passive. “I know the university is an asset in the district (and) I will act as a spokesperson for it,” he said.
Victory noted that GVSU is the largest employer in the 88th district and voiced certain expectations of his constituent. Namely, he would like to see the university continue its good relations with the local communities.
Victory said he hopes for GVSU to remain involved in the community by keeping open dialogue with local officials, providing educational support to the district and being a good neighbor.
As far as the latter goes, Victory said, “I think they’ve proven themselves.”
Nevertheless, the representative said he has noticed unspecified “growing pains” between the expanding university and local towns that could be alleviated.
Brinks also has expectations for GVSU as a district resident. She said she wants the university to continue to be “a positive presence in the city,” as well as serve as an affordable, high-quality state school for West Michigan. She added that GVSU helps make Grand Rapids an attractive city for young people, so she aims to provide it support to help it thrive.
Brinks said she has not had many interactions with GVSU so far, but she will be paying attention to the issues affecting the institution. “It’s one of the anchor institutions (in Grand Rapids) so it’s obviously on my radar,” she said.
Brinks has developed a positive impression of GVSU throughout her residency in the city, she said. “(It’s) a valuable part of what we do in Grand Rapids and (although) I don’t have a long-term relationship with them, in general I’m very impressed with their presence and the transformation of parts of downtown and the campus presence.”
McLogan said he does not anticipate any changes for GVSU as far as its relationship with the state goes, but it is not possible to say what the general attitude of the House is at the moment.
“It’s a large turnover, and we will certainly be very interested in the views and opinions of the new members,” McLogan said.
To contact Victory, call 517-373-1830 or email RogerVictory@house.mi.gov. To contact Brinks, call 517-373-0822 or email WinnieBrinks@house.mi.gov.