The University of the South has been named a “Voter Friendly Campus” for the first time by NASPA, the national organization of student affairs administrators in higher education, and the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project.
The Campus Vote Project initiative held participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encouraged their students to register and vote in the 2018 elections and in the coming years.
The purpose of the Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process. The Sewanee campus was evaluated based on the campus plan developed by the Office of Civic Engagement’s democratic engagement initiative, Yea, Sewanee Votes! (YSV), that specified how we would engage student voters in 2018 and aid democratic engagement efforts on campus.
Sharron Bockman, post-baccalaureate fellow for student programming in the Office of Civic Engagement says, “The success of YSV this year really comes down to the students. I was surprised and energized by the student response. They showed up, asked questions, and were eager to get involved with the democratic process.”
YSV, the Office of Civic Engagement’s democratic engagement initiative, embarked on a social media campaign during the 2018 summer and fall semesters to raise awareness about voting. YSV also supported Campus Election Engagement Project fellows, Alexandria Chastenet, C’19, and Emily Badgett, C’20, who hosted a variety of events to encourage registration, education, and turnout. Events included panel discussions, a campus visit from former members of Congress Bob Carr and Melissa Hart, a screening of the film One Vote, and an election night watch party at the Tiger Bay Pub. YSV also organized a voter registration competition between Sewanee’s Greek organizations.
After the election, YSV surveyed the student body about the effectiveness of the democratic engagement initiative and students’ voting behavior. Two committees are being established to build on YSV’s success: a planning committee, consisting mainly of students, and an advisory committee, consisting of faculty and staff, who will reflect on the past efforts and direct efforts in upcoming years.
The institutions designated Voter Friendly Campuses represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural, and urban campuses.
NASPA is a 15,000-member association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession.
The Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform organization which works to remove barriers to registration and voting for traditionally underrepresented constituencies.