On April 24, UConn students visited the Hartford State Capitol and Legislative Office building and partook in a day of action. A round of guest speakers discussed their respective statehouse experiences and legislative proposals before students dispersed themselves and met with their local state representatives. Before the event, students were encouraged to contact their representatives and schedule meetings during which both sides could discuss legislation on behalf of such initiatives as a statewide plastic bag ban, textbook price transparency, and early voting.
UConnPIRG, Undergraduate Student Government and other statewide organizations proved critical to this lobby day’s success and anticipate holding similar events in the near future. Without question, UConn administrators must support these endeavors.
But you might ask: Why exactly are lobby days worth our time and effort? Our priority here at UConn is to prosper academically and prepare ourselves for life beyond the classroom, right? In a concrete sense, sure, you would be correct. However, the college experience entails critical ventures that transcend your academic responsibilities.
Legislative lobby days in particular provide the opportunity to make a pronounced impact on real-world issues; mere hours after UConn students’ latest visit, in fact, Connecticut’s House of Representatives voted 125-24 in favor of a constitutional amendment to facilitate early voting statewide! Even those of you who are not as politically-inclined stand to benefit from initiatives that will lend you a sense of purpose and instruct you in passionate, effective self-advocacy.
So then how do we facilitate more events in this vein? Well, UConn administrators ought to assist us in this regard. For starters, we should collaborate with statehouse leaders and set aside at least a few days each semester during which students can visit the Hartford State Capitol and Legislative Office building via university-provided transportation and meet with their local state representatives. Certainly we can afford to do this given the scarcity of breaks throughout our academic calendar, and no longer can we allow academic obligations and travel complications to obstruct passionate students from making their voices heard on a grand scale. Before each action day, administrators and student groups should train prospective lobbyists for the task at hand and welcome those with less knowledge and experience within this environment. Then, administrators should attend these action days themselves, serving as guest speakers and lobbying alongside students for progressive state legislation. Such a partnership would greatly enhance the credence of our cause and provide more positive publicity for UConn and its alumni.
The time to act is now. Let’s lobby together for meaningful student engagement!