Topeka, Kan. – The Voter Friendly Campus initiative has designated Washburn University as a “Voter Friendly Campus” for the 2019-2020 period. Washburn University is part of a select group of campuses from around the country that participated in the initiative and that received the designation.
Washburn students and advisors formed a committee to identify opportunities for democratic engagement on campus and formulated a plan to address those areas.
“Fostering a community engaged in the political process – from campus to national elections – is about providing information and having conversations,” said Dr. Eric Grospitch, vice president of student life for Washburn University.
The committee identified three key goals for the fall 2018 semester: increase the number of students registered to vote through increased voter registration and education drives, increased and coordinated opportunities for the campus community to be educated on issues and candidates, and develop pathways to polls. Loud Light, a local organization focused on non-partisan voter registration, the Washburn College Democrats and the Washburn College Republicans were particularly involved in efforts to meet these goals.
Outreach was done to students via email with voter registration information as well as how to request an absentee ballot. A website “button” was included with additional links from the Student Life page. Student organizations “tabled” to allow discussion and questions with students one-on-one. A reported 1,265 Washburn University students registered to vote.
Washburn also guided students to the Kansas Secretary of State website and other voter resource sights with Kansas election information. This allowed students to find information about local races that were important to them. Additionally, student organizations, and the Washburn political science department offered a variety of candidate forums throughout the semester, including debate watch parties and discussions following, on campus. Washburn also worked to ensure students were aware of where polling places were and how to access them, including transportation options.
“I am very proud of the work our students did and continue to do to engage their peers in this important conversation,” said Grospitch. “Washburn University and Washburn Tech have a long history of creating opportunities for civil discourse and engagement. Through our Learning in the Community (LinC) program and Bonner Scholars, to our outstanding faculty and co-curricular programs there have been direct efforts to positively impact democratic engagement.”
The Voter Friendly Campus designation program started through a partnership between Campus Vote Project and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) in 2016. The goal of the program is to help institutions develop plans to coordinate administrators, faculty and student organizations in civic and electoral engagement. To be considered for the Voter Friendly Campus designation, the institution must submit an individual plan and an analysis of the results of their efforts.
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