This summer and fall CVP is writing profiles of colleges and universities and their efforts to educate students about voter registration, casting a ballot and developing democratic engagement. These campuses are a part of the Voter Friendly Campus designation project offered by CVP and NASPA.
By Lauren Anderson, CVP Intern
One of the final interviews I conducted was with a representative from the University of South Carolina (USC) about its civic engagement efforts. Making sure students are civically and democratically engaged is important to this representative.
At USC, students are given the power to make change possible on their campus. As a result, it’s the students who in many cases, lead the charge to make their peers more active in their community and in their democracy. A great example of this at USC is the Lead the Way Initiative. This joint project between the university administration and student government brought together student organizations from opposite sides of the political spectrum, and united them with the common goal of registering young voters. Students in the student government, College Democrats, and College Republicans will table in popular student areas to register students. The Lead the Way Initiative has the goal of registering 5,000 students. With 50% of USC students coming from outside the state, members of the initiative have to register a large number of out-of-state students to reach their goal. That’s why students who are tabling will have the necessary paperwork on-hand to register students regardless of what state they are from.
The administration is just as involved in preparing students to become engaged citizens. Because of its efforts, USC’s campus has been the site of numerous high-profile political events in this election cycle. This February, presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton held a town hall on USC’s campus ahead of the state’s primary. Representing the Republicans, candidates Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich held their own town hall in the same month. Whenever important speakers come to campus, USC heavily markets these events to encourage student attendance. TVs in the student union will display commercials about upcoming events hourly. However, the best way to promote events is to get students to talk about them to each other. Students are more likely to attend events that they know their friends will be attending. Personalizing outreach makes students feel like they aren’t a number, but an independent individual. USC may be a large school, but they make sure every student’s voice matters.