BY: DAWSON WEINHOLD, STAFF WRITER
We are constantly told that voting is our civic duty. Each year, as election day comes near, an army of political volunteers descends upon campus to register students to vote. This is the part of democracy everyone is familiar with, but it doesn’t end with voting. Meeting with your legislator to advocate issues that matter to you is just as important.
Each year Mason’s Student Government provides an opportunity for students to engage in this process with Mason Lobbies. The Government and Community Relations Committee in the student senate put in many hours to plan this event.
As one of the members involved with the planning, I can say the committee worked hard for the last several months to make sure the event went well. We spent this time creating legislative profiles so the attendees would know more about each legislator they met with. We also had to write student government legislation, R. #29 and B. #26, to support and fund the event.
The purpose of Mason Lobbies is to encourage Virginia’s General Assembly to provide Mason with the funds it needs to provide students with the skills they need to succeed. Mason remains at the forefront of innovation as an R1 research university, yet it still requires more funding to meet the needs of a growing population.
Over the last seven years, the number of students requesting financial aid at Mason has increased from 12,785 to 18,182. It would make sense that Mason’s funding would scale with the population growth we’ve experienced in Northern Virginia.
Mason Lobbies isn’t just about increasing funding for Mason. Students are given the opportunity to speak with their legislators about any issues that matter to them. For off-campus students like me, that could mean advocating infrastructure funding to improve Route 123. For other students, that might mean supporting legislation that tackles housing affordability in Northern Virginia.
Meeting with legislators reveals a more personal side of politics that we often don’t think about. Going into legislators’ offices makes you realize that they’re people too, not the caricatures we make them out to be. Del. Michael Webert’s office is filled with pictures and wildlife from his farm in Fauquier County. Sen. Bryce Reeves’ office contains mementos from his times in the Army and as a Prince William County Police Officer.
It makes you realize that these people have their own lives and experiences that have contributed to their political development. Maybe if we considered our legislators’ humanity more, the political environment would improve a little bit.
Mason Lobbies has been one of Student Government’s biggest initiatives throughout the years. It gives students the opportunity to voice their concerns to their legislators, allows them to view the legislative process up front and interact with legislators in unique ways. I am proud to have been involved in its planning and execution and hope to see it continue successfully in the future.