How Students Can Make a Difference in Politics

On Jan. 19, 88 Western students spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the Capitol Campus down in Olympia speaking with legislators about the needs of Western students.  During 110 meetings, students advocated for the Associated Students Legislative Agenda, which included badly needed funding for Carver Academic Facility, as well as increased support for survivors of sexual violence. All students were welcome to attend Viking Lobby Day, a free event (covered by student fees), where Western students took a bus down to the Olympia capitol and were then trained on how to lobby. There was a wide range of students, from confident and determined political science majors to curious first timers who didn’t know the first thing about lobbying. The most important thing though, is that we were all there to share our voices with the leaders of our state.  

If you missed Viking Lobby Day, don’t worry!  Here are 7 ways you can continue to make a difference during this legislative session.

1. Know your Legislator

It is important to know who is speaking on your behalf when decisions are being made that affect you.  Check out this awesome tool and find out who your legislators are. You will have two house members and one senator.

2. Contact your Legislator

Just as it is important for you to know who is representing you, it is also important for legislators to know who they are representing.  They love hearing from constituents, so don’t be shy; email, call, or even visit your legislator’s office! If you don’t have a specific issue to discuss, legislators can also be great educational sources that will help you better understand the political processes.

Western sophomore, Nicole Langevin, who attended Viking Lobby day, said it was a greaty opportunity to meet so many students as well as legislators.

"I think politicians like to see and listen to college students because we remind them of when they were young and feisty," Langevin said.

3. Take yourself seriously

If you take yourself seriously and act like it, others will too. It's easy to think of a big government official as intimidating, but remember they represent you and their duty is to serve you as an elected  official.

Viking Lobby Day Board Assistant, Lulu Sapigao, said meeting legislators and going to the state capitol was very empowering. She realized how much power she had by represeneting the Western student body and telling legislators this is what students want, she said.

 

(Western students pose with representative Roger Goodman, after discussing Western's top needs. From left to right: John Ried, Stephanie Roloff, Kassidy Kappler, Roger Goodman, Lucina Leon Palma and Abby Ramos)

 

4. Don't feel like you have to be an expert

Yes do your research, but at the same time your legislators understand that you are a student. More than your expertise, sharing your experiences as students is extremely valuable. Students were reminded over and over again on Viking Lobby that their personal stories would stick out in the minds of legislators.

"I think students really can make a difference in government and politics becasue we are at an age when we have the energy and time to go legislate and get peole to listen to us," Langevin said.

5. Don't be afraid to have a different opinion

It can be really exciting to try and hear about other people's perspectives and you can learn a lot.

"I genuinely felt like I was being heard, even in the situations where the legislators definitely didn't agree with the points we were bringing up," Langevin said.

6. Pay attention to your community

And not just to the next big event on campus, but everything! Especially going to a state-funded school, pay attention to where those tax dollars are going.

                      (Western students smile on the steps of Washington State's capitol. From left to right: Claire Moore, Nicole Langevin, Marie Stucke and Stirling Scott)

 

7. Get involved!

Join Western Votes--

As their website states, “Western Votes is a volunteer student organization at WWU dedicated to increasing student voter turnout and political awareness.” Western Votes helps students engage in the          political process by registering people to vote, providing educational opportunities, and connecting with other students across the state through the Washington Student Association.

Attend ASURT Events--

New this year, Autonomous Students United to Reduce Tuition, is focused on organizing students around the issue of rising tuition. Everyone’s voice counts on this issue, make sure yours is heard. 

Attend the AS  Legislative Affairs Council--

Legislative Affairs Council is charged with encouraging involvement and formulating positions on behalf of Western Students. Though membership is full, it is always good to go and make your voice   heard at the committee.