State and federal legislators have a great impact on the continual growth of Oakland University. It is important that you are aware of who represents you in Lansing and Washington D.C. The Office of Government and Community Relations encourages you to contact your elected officials and let them know your position on issues of importance to the State of Michigan, higher education, and Oakland University.
Contact information, including emails and phone numbers, for legislators can be found on the Office of Government and Community Relations website under the Elected Officials page.
Below are some helpful tips to ensure that your message will be heard by your elected official:
- Register to vote and vote often. Officials are elected through the voting process. It is important that citizens register to vote through the Secretary of State's office, County Clerk, or local municipal clerk and vote often in elections. It is your right.
More information on voting:
- Send a real letter. This may seem old-fashioned, but legislators understand that it takes more time to write a letter, sign it, put a stamp on it and place it in the mail than it takes to send an e-mail message. More effort on your part means you really care about the issues you are addressing. You may get a greater "hearing" if you send a paper letter. If you absolutely don't have time for a letter, then an e-mail message or phone call is better than no contact at all.
- Avoid sending or signing "form letters," either electronically or on paper. Legislators know that form letters require very little effort on the part of those who sign them. While the legislator may acknowledge the content of the form letter, it is equally likely that the letter will never reach the legislator's desk. Even if it does, your individual signature probably will not make much of an impact. Understand your correspondence as an investment of your time--and make the investment count.
- Be brief, clear and respectful in all your communications. Let your legislator know right away what your point is ("The purpose of this letter is..."). Be personal, but professional in how you prepare your letter and what you say. Remember that legislators are human, and if your tone is angry, sarcastic or accusatory, they may not listen to your actual message. Try to keep your letters to one page--and to one topic.
- Include facts and use examples. If you state facts along with your opinions, your perspective will carry greater weight. The more specific you are by using facts and personal examples, the stronger your point will be heard. This may require some research on your part, which will only strengthen your argument.
- Acknowledge challenges. Legislators hear from many constituents and they do not all agree on the issues. When there are budgetary constraints or other challenges facing legislators, it is helpful to make a brief reference to these situations, so the legislators know you are informed and that you realize the complexity of their responsibilities.
- Be specific with requests. If you are asking your legislator to take some kind of action, be clear about what you are asking. Don't assume they will be able to tell what you are asking by inferring it from the content of your letter. State your case first, then ask politely for whatever action you would like to see. Phrases such as "please consider voting for this legislation..." or "I urge you to visit campus..." strike the right tone.
- Provide constructive suggestions. If you are writing about a problem or difficult situation, include proposed solutions to the problems in the correspondence.
- Speak in your own words. Try to write in a comfortable style that presents your message as you would in person.
- Reveal who you are. Tell your legislator that you are a constituent in their district. Include the fact that you are an OU alumnus and who you work for or what field you work in, if it is relevant to the topic of the correspondence.
- Speak as an individual citizen. Your legislators are interested in hearing what you have to say. You may be joining your voice with many others, but it is important that you communicate on your own behalf rather than attempting to "represent" a larger group of people.
- Address your letters to "The Honorable", followed by the person's full name, followed by the address on separate lines. (i.e. The Honorable John M. Smith...). The salutation should be "Dear Representative Smith," "Dear Senator Smith."
- Close your letters with thank you. Always thank your legislator for taking the time to read your letter and consider your thoughts, concerns, suggestions, or comments.
- Provide your contact information. Include your mailing address, e-mail address and phone numbers where you can be reached. If you send personal correspondence, your legislator will probably return an acknowledgement of some kind. Make it easy for them to do so.
- Do not include bulky items in your envelope. Unfortunately, in today's world, even something like a lapel pin enclosed in an envelope can raise suspicion, because the recipient will not know what is in the envelope. Mail your letter in a regular envelope and be sure to include your return address on the outside of the envelope.
- Be sure to send a follow-up thank you letter if your legislator acts on the issue you raised. Legislators are accustomed to requests, but the appreciation letters are far fewer. Yours will certainly be noticed!
- Contact your legislator by phone if you wish. Make sure you reveal your identity to the person who answers the phone. If the legislator is unavailable, tell the staff member the topic of your message and let them know how you can be reached. If you do not hear back in a timely manner, write a follow-up letter expressing your thoughts and your desire to speak by phone.
- Consider visiting your legislator. Most legislators have offices in their district. This information can be found on the Office of Government and Community Relations under the Elected Officials webpage. If you call and request an appointment, your legislator is likely to meet with you and you can share your concerns or suggestions in person with them.
- Contact our office if you have any questions. We would be happy to talk to you about effective ways of reaching out to your legislators.