Most college students are pretty unhappy with Congress right about now and rightfully so. With huge cuts to education and high unemployment especially among recent college graduates, the Republican majority in Congress is focused more on cutting taxes for millionaires on the backs of the 99% as opposed to job creation and economic recovery. They’ve taken a lot of heat for their actions with the Congressional approval rating in the teens.
It’s important to let our elected officials know when they’re not representing us properly, but it’s equally important to let them know when they do something right.
A couple weeks ago, Congresswoman Lois Capps came to a Campus Democrats meeting and spoke about recent events in Congress and what to expect from Washington in the next year. She spoke about President Obama’s student loan package as well as other efforts to create jobs and relieve economic tension on those of us that are hurting the most.
The most interesting part of the meeting however wasn’t hearing her speak, it was watching her listen. After she finished her speech, she took questions from students in the audience. One student activist asked her opinion on SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.
The Congresswoman recognized having seen the legislation, but didn’t know the details. After asking the questioner for details about the bill, she responded that something needed to be done about online piracy and that there needed to be some sort of regulation to prevent piracy, but said that she was still learning about the issue and the bill.
So several Campus Democrats members informed her that SOPA would drastically threaten the flow of information on the Internet, forcing websites to regulate anything and everything posted on their site. If any commenter posted a copyrighted image on the website, the website could be shut down under SOPA.
Congresswoman Capps listened intently to all of the concerns of the students and acknowledged our disapproval of the bill.
Over the next few days, opponents of SOPA waged a multimillion person online protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Wikipedia shut down for an entire day and Google blacked out its logo on its homepage to raise awareness that both sites and many smaller sites would be severely threatened if SOPA became law.
Millions of people signed online petitions in protest of SOPA and many called, emailed or Facebooked their representatives in Congress. I even emailed Congresswomen Capps and wrote on her Facebook wall asking her to oppose the legislation.
The day after the massive protests, Congresswoman Capps posted on her Facebook page thanking her constituents for sharing our opinions with her.
The next day, she again posted on her Facebook page, stating her opposition to SOPA and citing the many constituents who shared their opposition to the legislation with her.
I have heard many speeches from Congresswoman Capps over the years and I’m always impressed by the things she has to stay, but now I am more impressed with her ability to listen. At the Campus Democrats meeting, she could have phoned it in, writing us off as a bunch of college students that were going to support her anyway, but instead she listened to us and took our concerns seriously.
And now because we were willing to share our opinions, and she was willing to listen, we have a representative that is taking our concerns as students with her to Washington, D.C.
Eric Anciaux is a third-year physics major in the College of Creative Studies and president of UCSB Campus Democrats.