By Ta’Lisa Turner-Pitts, Student Advisory Board Member
On October 19, the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge hosted their first ALL IN Awards ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, DC, recognizing participating institutions for their outstanding work.
The morning was kicked off with a workshop led by CVP’s own Mike Burns and Rachel Clay along with Clarissa Unger of the Young Invincibles. The panel facilitated a discussion around creating a campus democratic engagement action plan with an emphasis on using the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) data to inform strategies and measure progress.
A mix of college administrators, organizers, and students were in attendance at the workshop. Facilitators asked how administrators are responding to their NSLVE results and how they want to improve their action plans. Many responded that, based on the NSLVE data, they need to focus on registering and engaging STEM and business students, especially since more people in those professions are starting to run for office. There was also a lively discussion among the administrators and organizers about difficulty contacting campuses. Outside groups noted the challenges of navigating higher ed bureaucracies, while administrators expressed concern about engaging in what can seem like partisan activity. There was consensus on remaining nonpartisan in joint campus efforts and incorporating more faculty members to achieve goals. Sometimes, faculty in political science departments are passionate about civic engagement and are in contact with the administrator and student groups, but other disciplines need help connecting the issues their students study to the democratic process. The panel also discussed including election dates in syllabi, using registration tools like TurboVote and Rock the Vote, and incorporating voter registration into orientation, move-in, and first-year seminars as other ways to embed voter registration and election information into existing institution practices.
Nancy Thomas of Tufts University, and head of the Institute for Democracy in Higher Education, spoke on the importance of a culture of civic engagement on campus. She explained there are many obstacles facing those who want to become a more civically engaged, especially in the current political climate, and while the ALL IN Awards ceremony celebrates those who overcame those achievements, we have to remember there will be more obstacles to come.
Monica Viadurri of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, facilitated a discussion between Arne Duncan and John B. King Jr. Arne Duncan, a managing partner at the Emerson Collective, served as the U.S. Secretary of Education from 2009 to 2015 under President Barack Obama and John B. King, president and CEO of The Education Trust, served as the Secretary of Education from 2016 to 2017. They spoke of the role campuses play in strengthening our democracy. There was emphasis on how school, at all levels, are the foundation of civic engagement because one of its functions is to prepare politically and civically minded citizens. There was also emphasis on creating pathways for diverse populations’ opportunities for civic engagement.
Campuses were then recognized and awarded for their outstanding achievements in civic engagement; The University of Baltimore received the only Gold Seal for having a voter participation rate between 70% and 79%. Many other campuses received the Silver and Bronze Seals for voter participation between 60% and 69% and 50% and 59%, respectively. Click here to see our post recognize ALL IN Award winners that participated in the Voter Friendly Campus Designation process as well. There were also awards given to individuals who worked hard to improve voting rates, school spirit, and awareness.
Overall, the ceremony was a great way to celebrate the hard work that campuses, administrators, and students have done and continue to do to open conversation on campuses being a major cornerstone of civics.