How to Visit a Congressional Office

  1. Make an appointment. Ask to speak with the appointment secretary, explain that you are visiting just for the day, and see whether there is a time available with the member of Congress. If that proves impossible, make an appointment with the aide who works on higher education issues.  DON'T be disappointed if you get a meeting with the aide; they are the repositories of all the information for the member and know the issues well. 
  2. Show up on time. They're not likely to wait 10 minutes for a full professor -- or whatever the rule is. You'll find that your time has been given to someone else.
  3.  Be prepared to wait—especially for a visit with the member. They often get called away or tied up in something they can't control.  For this reason, be prepared to deliver your message briefly and up-front:  you never know how much time you will have.  If there is time to go into a detailed discussion, wonderful.  If the member gets called to go vote after 10 minutes, then at least you've delivered your main points.   
  4. Introduce yourself (selves) and mention the general reason for your visit -- support of higher education.
  5. Start on a positive note. If you know that this representative or senator has been supportive of higher education in the past or in this session, mention your appreciation. If the person's record is somewhat at odds with AAUP stances, say something positive about higher education in this country - there is always common ground to be found somewhere. 
  6. Listen and respond. In your conversation with your representative or senator, or with their staff members, you can bring up issues that are important to you. It is important that you:
  7. Limit yourself to one or two items. Briefly describe your concern and ask about the representative's or senator's views on the subject. Ask for the other person's views early, before you've given him or her a lot of detailed clues as to your views and specific concerns. That way you'll be able to tell whether this topic is a familiar one for that office, and whether the representative or senator is normally inclined to agree with your position. There will be time, after an initial exchange, to elaborate further on your views, to give examples of the problem you see or the hopes you want to express.
  8.  Keep it conversational. Offer your perspectives -- but follow up with a question. It's not enough to tell them what's on your mind -- we need to know what's on their minds.
  9. NOTE:   If you are there representing the AAUP and have identified yourself as such, stay ON MESSAGE re: higher education.   Citizens should be engaged and communicative with their elected representatives, but respect which hat you are wearing at a given moment.  Representing the AAUP is not the time to discuss the war, dependence on foreign oil, or your pro-life/pro-choice views.   Please be mindful of this and discuss unrelated topics while representing yourself, rather than the Association. testing.