How to Visit a Legislator’s Office

While state legislature and US Congress offices differ in many ways, there are some common practices that can help AAUP members with their advocacy visits at the state and federal levels.

  1. Make an appointment. Use online directories to locate the contact information for your state representatives or members of Congress. It is helpful to find the staffer who works directly with education issues. If you cannot meet with the legislator themselves, there is likely a staff member who would be willing to take a meeting with you about your issues and concerns.
  2. Show up on time. Staffers often have many meetings throughout the day across a wide range of issues. Being punctual helps them be able to see you during the short time they may have available.
  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 ten 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. Limit yourself to one or two items. Briefly describe your concern and ask about the legislator’s views on the subject. Be sure to ask the staffer if there are any questions they have about the topic or if there is any information that may find useful. Leave plenty of time to have a conversation to learn more about their viewpoints.
  7. Remember which hat you are wearing. If you are there as an AAUP representative and have identified yourself as such, please stay on message. Citizens should be engaged and communicative with their elected representatives, but while you are representing the AAUP, it’s not the time to discuss unrelated issues.
  8. Follow up after the meeting. Be sure to exchange business cards or contact information with the staffer at the meeting and send a thank you note. While you may not get everything you wanted from one meeting, building connections with members of the legislature is important for future advocacy. If there was information or data that the staffer indicated may be useful to the office in the future, a follow up correspondence would also be a good time to provide that.