#NACAC20: Advocacy in the COVID-19 Era

Want to make life better for students (and your institution) amid the pandemic?

Speakers featured during a panel discussion on politics, government, and higher education at this week’s 2020 NACAC Virtual Conference offered two suggestions.

  1. Pick up the phone.
  2. Vote.

“These are very tough times we are living in,” Paul Mounds, chief of staff for the governor of Connecticut, told attendees. “…This is not the time to be shy about your financial situation. This is not the time to be shy about the situations facing your students…Government needs to hear directly from you.”

His fellow panelists — DeAngela Burns-Wallace, the Kansas Secretary of Administration, and Tim Sandoval, mayor of Pomona, California — agreed. Emails and phone calls can make a difference, they said. Officials need to hear firsthand about the challenges students, staff, and schools must confront as they begin a new academic year using a variety of in-person, online, and hybrid learning options.

“During a crisis like COVID-19, as policymakers, we have to figure out how to make sure our families are stabilized,” said Sandoval, whose administration has worked with community partners to provide internet access and food and housing support to residents amid the pandemic. “…It’s really hard to concentrate on your studies if you don’t have a stable place to stay or if you don’t have food to eat.”

College admission professionals, who work closely with students, can help officials identify ways to reach families in need, according to the panel, which was moderated by Kim Clark of the Education Writers Association. They can also advocate for much-needed funding for their own institutions and ensure all internal policies and practices are access-oriented.

Most importantly, they can vote.

Burns-Wallace encouraged all conference attendees to cast a ballot in November “no matter where you sit in terms of your politics.” Voting matters at the local, state, and federal levels, she noted.

“The funding runs all the way through, the policymaking runs all the way through,” said Burns-Wallace. “The accountability needs to run all the way through as well.”

The NACAC Virtual Conference continues online through Thursday. Recordings of all conference sessions will be available for purchase through Playback now. Registered attendees can view conference content on-demand for free until Oct. 31. All sessions will be available to registered attendees 24 hours after the session occurs.

Mary Stegmeir is a freelance writer and editor. She formerly served as NACAC’s assistant director for editorial content and outreach.

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