Dear Student Affairs Professional,
I am a millennial. I am also a mid-level career professional and NASPA’s Assistant Director of Policy Research and Advocacy, and while these identities would typically take precedent, I can anticipate potential skepticism of why someone who grew up with the internet would promote paper letter-writing. After all, I receive event invites through email and social media, and I haven’t written or received a handwritten letter in a long time.
However, the last time I did write a letter, and stuff it into a white envelope, I experienced a lasting impact that an email or textbot could not provide. The last letter I wrote by hand was to that of a United States detained refugee seeking asylum from persecution of his trans identity in his home country. I wrote my letter alongside hundreds of other members of my Asian American LGBTQ community, and after all of our letters, full of words of affirmation, support, and camaraderie were gathered together in a basket, we were able to imagine, together, how it would feel for him, during his prolonged detainment, to receive the heaps of white envelopes unexpectedly in the mail. We watched, together, as our tears began to fall silently across the room.
These letters weren’t going to change the world. They weren’t going to reverse Department of Homeland Security detainment policies for asylum seekers. They weren’t going to create a national or global cultural shift toward the protection of trans and gender non-binary individuals. These letters could, however, change the letter-writer through the stimulation of movement-building symbolized by white envelopes heaped in a basket, and change the asylum-seeker, by again the tangible signal of community support represented by the receipt of more letters than he could physically carry.
The nature of a letter-writing campaign brings a community together and through markers of impact, whether it’s a whiteboard tally of e-mail messages sent, or stacks of letters compiled in a basket, allows that community to share in the power of collective advocacy. NASPA’s National Student Affairs Day of Action, coinciding this year with the Annual Conference on March 12, centers on uplifting the voice of student affairs professionals across the country through collective engagement with our representative democracy. Often the first line of direct contact with students on campus, student affairs professionals are privy to how higher education policy is operationalized on the ground. The anecdotes of student affairs professionals hold the power to land on the desk of a policymaker and provide a story compelling enough to shape the law.
Last July, NASPA compiled a set of Guidelines for Legislative Letter Writing Campaigns to provide letter-writing tips and a sample letter-writing template for members of the higher education community to use in the interest of organizing their own advocacy campaigns. This year, the letter-writing campaign packet proves evermore valuable as the National Student Affairs Day of Action is taking place at the height of state-level action. Many state legislatures run from January through April, with some states, such as Texas, only in-session every other year, making mid-March an ideal time for nationwide advocacy. Over the next month NASPA will release a series of letter-writing templates on legislation pertaining to the following topical issue areas:
With over a month away, there’s still time to organize a letter-writing campaign in conjunction with the National Student Affairs Day of Action on your campus. You can choose from the topics above, or create a sample letter of your own that students, faculty, and staff can tailor to their choosing. Just remember to stick with the following tips, and find additional details in NASPA’s Letter Writing Packet:
If you’re attending the NASPA Annual Conference you can also join the movement and watch the letter tally grow by filling out one of our printed letter-writing templates at NASPA’s Policy Pop-ups.
To learn more about the National Student Affairs Day of Action make sure to check out next week’s Policy Briefing Series Learn. Engage. Represent: Grassroots Policy & NASPA’s National Student Affairs Day of Action on February 14, 2018 at 2:30 p.m. ET where you can gain tips on how to get involved no matter where you’re located nationally, and to become part of a movement to amplify the voice of student affairs in our representative democracy.
Assistant Director of Policy Research and Advocacy, NASPA