U of I students impress Vice President enough to bring him to campus

CHAMPAIGN-URBANA--April was already a busy month in the University of Illinois Student Senate offices, but on Friday, an item of vice presidential proportions was added to their agenda.

"I'm a big fan of Parks and Recreation and I remember the episode where Leslie Knope met Joe Biden and was just saying to her husband, 'this isn't real, this isn't real,'" said junior, Matt Hill. "That's how I feel right now. Like this kind of stuff happens to Leslie Knope. Not me."

But Matt Hill, Sarah Hochman, and Mitch Dickey will all have the chance to see Vice President Joe Biden in person this Thursday, when he takes a trip to their university.

"Even at this point we're still kind of like in surreal mode," said Dickey, who is also the Illinois Student Senate President. "Like a 'this isn't really happening' type of thing because, you know, this is never anything we would've expected."

Just last week, the three juniors were in Washington D.C. for "Big Ten on the Hill," an annual meeting between student government representatives from all the colleges in the conference.  This year, a lot of the conversation was about campus sexual assault and how President Barack Obama's new "It's on Us" campaign can help end it.

"The campaign is about creating en environment where sexual assault is not accepted," said Hochman, who also serves as the Illinois Student Senate Vice President. "And creating a culture where survivors are supported on our campus."

At the U of I's campus, the efforts to grow the campaign have been unique. They've handed out hundreds of t-shirts, made public service announcements, and even hosted a Twitter town hall.

"That was something that just generated so much social media buzz," said Hill, who also serves as an Illinois Student Senate Vice President. "And I think that was only one of the things that flagged down some DC people about what we've been doing here."

"After the student senate leaders arrived back in Illinois, those D.C. people flagged them down to let them know that they're efforts to take a stand against sexual assault was about to recognized in a big way.

"He's like, 'the Vice President of the United States is going to be coming,'" said Dickey. "And I was like 'what?!' So it was really crazy."

Now, the three have a crazy week of planning campaign events ahead of Biden's speech on Thursday because they say "It's on Us" to put a stop to sexual assault.
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