By Ariel McGee
Student Leadership and Service (SLS) sponsored a “Write Your Representatives” tabling event in accordance with Student Civic Action Coordinator Elise Glaser’s ’18 new initiative to get students more politically involved on campus. The event was held outside of the Fields Dining Hall on March 7 and 8.
“People have a lot that they want to do politically and not a lot of ways to do it, and so that’s why the Write Your Representatives is a good way for constituents to engage with their representatives,” Glaser said.
This year, Glaser has been promoting a series of events that are aimed at increasing Lewis & Clark student participation in the political world. In addition to Write Your Representatives, Glaser has headed SLS trips to NAACP meetings and various political events in Portland.
“In the SLS, we try to offer a wide range of ways to engage — through hands-on service-learning projects, advocacy opportunities like this one, leadership education workshops, place-based alternative break trips and more,” Director of SLS Harold McNaron said via email. “(SLS’s) Write Your Rep initiative was organized to give LC community members a quick and easy way to make their values and voices heard by elected officials.”
SLS is a nonpartisan office of LC, and the Write Your Representatives event was meant to reflect the political ideologies of the students who chose to write letters, not the school itself. SLS aided students in finding out who their current representatives are.
“As an office we table once a week to promote trips that we’re doing and to help students understand what SLS stands for as an office,” Student Coordinator Hannah Spears ’18 said. “What I really liked about tabling this week was that we were able to take these postcards and quantify how much outreach the tabling achieved.”
SLS could not give any specific examples of what to write to representatives, but the table presented bills that are currently being considered in Congress.
“Some students were interested in writing their representatives and didn’t really know what to write about,” Spears said. “It was kind of surprising to me because I feel like we have this narrative that everyone wants to be involved and that everyone has strong opinions.”
Once students figured out what they wanted to write about they were given postcards and wrote a few sentences to their representatives. SLS is in charge of adding postage and sending out the postcards.
“I’ve done a lot of government work, such as working in DC for a summer and interning with the Portland Mayor, and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge to share in relation to contacting representatives,” Glaser said. “I’m a senior and I hope someone takes over my job as Civic Action Coordinator next year and that Write Your Representatives will continue after I’m gone.”
Glaser will continue to promote student political engagement and to create events like Write Your Representatives for her remaining semester at LC. Due to Glaser’s graduation this year, the future direction of this initiative is unknown. Applications for SLS positions, including the Civic Action Coordinator, will go out at the beginning of the fall semester.