Save The Date For Capitol Hill Day

By Patricia Bentley and Ellen Schrecker

Concerned about the future of higher education? Worried about shrinking financial support for our students? Bothered by diminished funding for research? Apprehensive about the imposition of a No-Child-Left-Behind scenario at your college or university? Uneasy with increased federal security restrictions, surveillance, and secrecy? Want to do something about all these problems? Join the AAUP’s Government Relations Committee for Capitol Hill Day on Thursday, June 11, 2009.

Every year, on the Thursday before the annual meeting, AAUP members lobby their senators and representatives on issues of specific concern to the academic community. Capitol Hill Day is a unique opportunity to bring these issues to the attention of your elected federal officials. It is the only day specifically devoted to grassroots congressional visits by higher education faculty and professionals.

We inform Congress about the AAUP, but, more importantly, we impress upon our elected officials the need for open and sustained access to the nation’s institutions of higher education. Each year, our Capitol Hill Day delegations raise a few key issues to which we want Congress to pay attention—like the Higher Education Act reauthorization, the ideological exclusion of foreign scholars, or the need to head off David Horowitz’s misnamed “academic bill of rights.”

The AAUP’s Washington staff and state conferences arrange appointments for members to visit their own state’s senators and representatives. The staff also briefs us about current events and activities at the federal level, providing talking points and handouts so that we can chat—wonkishly or not—about legislation of interest to the academy.

If you are a novice or coming in for the annual meeting as an individual, we can get you connected with an experienced AAUP advocate. You will learn lobbying techniques and pick up tips for presenting your viewpoint effectively with officeholders.

You will usually end up seeing congressional staff members rather than the elected officials themselves. But, as you walk the halls of the Houseand Senate office buildings, distributing literature and talking with staffers, student interns, and the occasional congressperson, you will get an insider’s view of our government at work. More than that, you will be taking action to support higher education and demonstrating the values of free expression and open discourse. You will be engaging in an important conversation and, we assure you, you will feel good about it.

The day ends with a reception on Capitol Hill for AAUP members, congressional staffers, and others to honor the recipient of the AAUP’s Henry T. Yost Award, given to a senator or representative who has done extraordinary things for higher education, students, or academic freedom or freedom of expression.

Our lobbying is essential. The government relations staff in the national office is tiny. Our staff members do wonderful work, but we can only influence national policy and obtain funding for higher education with your help.

Plan ahead to come to Washington in time to take part in Capitol Hill Day. You need to get to Washington either very early on Thursday or on Wednesday. When you make plans to attend the annual meeting and request funds, or budget your own resources, keep Capitol Hill Day in mind. And you do not need to register for the annual meeting to participate in our lobbying activities. A few AAUP members come to Washington only for Capitol Hill Day and all members in the Washington area are invited to participate as well.

Let your state conference representatives and Nicole Byrd at the national office know that you are coming so that they can make appointments for you. See the Government Relations Committee at the Capitol Hill Day table in the Omni Shoreham for copies of the invitation to the legislative reception and for tips on lobbying, handouts, and maps of the office buildings, or other assistance. See you on the Hill on June 11.

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