This year’s Mason Lobbies Day takes place Wednesday, Jan. 31, when a bus of green-and-gold clad Patriots travels from the Fairfax Campus to the Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond for a day-long visit.
The annual trek by George Mason University students, faculty and staff to Virginia’s capital to meet state legislators in Virginia’s General Assembly is more than a learning experience, said student body president David Kanos, it’s a necessity.
“This is very important, more than ever, because there’s a new governor and a new administration,” said Kanos, who will be making his first Mason Lobbies Day visit this month. “It’s also a chance for students to learn how to lobby, how to speak respectfully to a policymaker, how to talk to someone who can change their lives.”
This year there is a new governor, Ralph Northam (D), and a new lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax (D), who lead a House featuring many newly elected officials from around the state, some of whom may not be familiar with the mission, values and needs of the commonwealth’s largest public university.
“It’s a chance for the legislators to see face-to-face who they affect with their decisions on campus sexual assault, campus safety and DACA [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act],” said Kanos.
Mason students will reinforce those the messages as well as those developed by Mason’s senior leadership and conveyed by the Office of Government and Community Relations, headed by Mark Smith. Among the issues to be discussed:
- Increasing financial aid to Mason students
- Faculty and staff compensation
- College affordability
Mason’s annual appearance in Richmond does make an impact, said Meg Graham, Mason’s General Assembly assistant. Graham spent 10 years on the other side of the lobbying effort in the office of Del. Jimmie Massie (R), who retired last year. She has seen her share of lobbyists and says the “youth and positive exuberance” of the university representatives makes an impression on the legislators.
“It absolutely makes an impact,” Graham said. “The legislators can’t get to campus during session so it’s important for them to hear from the students and be reassured the money they appropriate from the state is well spent.”
In addition to Mason Lobbies Day, the Mason Alumni Association and Mason President Ángel Cabrera host a reception for alumni with legislators at Credit Union House of Virginia in Richmond on Tuesday, Jan. 30. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. Visit the Alumni Association website for more details.