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 Matt Camarda, CVP Intern
From my conversation with the Washington State University (WSU) representative, it was clear that WSU considers voting a necessary part of citizenship. What struck me was its dedication to engaging students and cultivating civil discourse.
Since Washington votes by mail only, WSU students can vote from the comfort of their dorms. The burden of registering students, however, still falls on WSU. Cougs Vote, the voter engagement arm of the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), and the Associated Students of WSU (ASWSU) conduct regular voter registration drives in public spaces. They provide registration and absentee information for the top five states WSU students live. Cougs Vote creates and displays signs about the election, the CCE maintains a regular social media presence. To supplement these efforts, WSU requires students to review an optional services form each year that includes voter registration info. Due to Washington’s voter friendly climate and WSU’s voter engagement, WSU students voted at 52% in 2012, five percent higher than the average public university.
The Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Service functions as a hub for policy discussions and service opportunities. Public Forums and Symposia have present new research and cover topics such as governing in polarized times and using fetal tissue in research. Coffee & Politics allows students to interact with influential leaders on a more personal level, like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The Distinguished Lecture Series have attracted well-known writers such as Nicholas Kristof and Christopher Hitchens. The Institute also connects students to internships in state and federal offices.
ASWSU provides students a unique opportunity to speak with legislators through the Cougar Lobby Team, which hosts an annual lobby day open to all students.
The wide array of opportunities to volunteer, discuss issues, and meet decision-makers reflects WSU’s holistic approach to citizenship. WSU students understand the importance of voting but also seek exposure to new experiences and ideas.