Email #69, Subject: “Request a Meeting”?

Thank you so much for correcting the misinformation on your website. When I visited your DC office on Friday, your Communications Director Beth Breeding informed me that the description on the “Open Door Meeting” page had been updated as I requested in an earlier email. I see it now reads:

“Each month a member of Congressman Goodlatte’s staff travels to communities throughout the Sixth District to assist constituents with problems they might have with a federal agency and hear their views on current issues before Congress… Due to privacy concerns, some matters must be discussed confidentially in order to protect personal information.”

By both underlining and italicizing the word “staff” you have made it very clear that no one should ever expect you to attend one of these meetings yourself. You have also removed the misleading phrase “to discuss the issues,” so now it is clear that your staff will only be recording constituents’ statements and making no attempt of any kind to answer any of their many questions.

While this is an improvement in terms of eliminating confusion regarding the Open Door Meetings, it actually increases my concerns regarding your failure to meet with your constituents yourself. I have filled out the “Request a Meeting” form on your website many, many times, but I have never received even a form-letter email acknowledging receipt, let alone a substantive response that might lead to scheduling an actual meeting. These requests seem to vanish into the ether.

I appreciate your correcting the “Open Door Meeting” page. Please also correct your “Request a Meeting” page. Unless you can indicate the probability of a meeting actually occurring or the criteria by which you decide whether a meeting request will be respected, the inclusion of the form on your website is misleading and even insulting.  At minimum, please respond to each request with a dated form-letter email. Although this would not improve the impression that you have no intention of ever meeting with those making the requests, it would at least indicate that the software running the request page is functioning. That is a depressingly low bar, but at the moment you are failing to achieve even it.

Chris Gavaler


Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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