Feb. 1, 2019 — CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) students will get an insider’s look at the U.S. Congress through the eyes of two former U.S. Representatives during a campus visit on Feb. 6.

“Congress to Campus” is a national program in which former lawmakers travel to campuses across the nation to answer questions about government and give students and the public a chance to ask questions about what it’s like in the day-to-day trenches on Capitol Hill.

Former Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Jim Coyne (R-PA), will visit CSUCI to talk to students in class and hold a town hall-style presentation from 12 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at CSUCI’s Grand Salon. The town hall will be moderated by Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and the campus community and the public are welcome to attend.

“I’m hoping they will help us get an understanding of how Congress should work from the point of view of two former members of Congress,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Matthew Mendez, Ph.D. “They can give us insight into why Congress is behaving the way it is now and give us an idea as to how we got to this point where we’ve had a government shutdown and Congress and the Presidency are playing chicken with each other.”

Mendez is organizing the event with assistance from Political Science Lecturer Tim Allison.

The U. S. Association of Former Members of Congress created the Congress to Campus Program in an effort to improve college students’ understanding of Congress and American government and to encourage them to consider careers in public service. In 1996, the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership stepped in to assist in managing the program, with the goal of increasing civic literacy among college students.

“Honesty, humanizing government and policy is one of the biggest issues that we have and one we try to solve with ‘Congress to Campus,’” said Director of Congressional Outreach Paul Kincaid.

Kincaid said a bipartisan pair of former congresspeople are chosen to visit different universities.

“We want to avoid congresspeople with an attachment to that university, so they can walk in and focus on the students rather than the previous experiences they have had with that university,” Kincaid said. “We use former congresspeople because they are out of the party apparatus and having to make daily fundraising calls. And the members get to go out and see the really cool things happening at universities around the country.”

Mendez said Coyne served in the Reagan White House and is an advocate for the aviation industry. Farr is known for his support of the nation’s military veterans. Among his accomplishments was to get a military base declared part of a national park.

Mendez said a visit like this is especially important for students who have lived through an extended period of dysfunctional federal government, with frustration on both sides of the aisle. 

“In the last eight years, we’ve had unprecedented acrimony between the branches of federal government, where crisis governing is normal,” Mendez said. “It’s important to have these former members of Congress come to campus to say ‘this isn’t normal. This isn’t the way Congress has functioned in the past. And how do we get back to normalcy?’”

Besides encouraging young people to enter public service, Mendez also hopes the former congressmen show students the importance of true bipartisanship.  

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