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2017 University News

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2017 University News

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West Chester Joins Universities Nationwide in Effort to be "Voter Friendly"

West Chester University has become one of 83 campuses in 23 states designated as a "Voter Friendly Campus."

Led by national nonpartisan organizations Campus Vote Project and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the initiative held participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that encourage their students to register and vote in the 2016 general election and in the coming years.

The mission of the Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process. West Chester was evaluated based on a campus plan about how we would engage student voters in the fall of 2016, how we facilitated voter engagement efforts on our campus, and a final analysis of our efforts.The designation is valid through December 2018.

West Chester University had several goals to carry out democratic engagement in 2016, including:

  • To register as many students as possible.
  • To empower students to turn out to vote.
  • To engage as many faculty, staff, and students as possible in the University's democratic engagement efforts, which include volunteering to register voters, educating voters, and participating in programming.

As part of our effort to be designated a voter friendly campus, WCU took the following steps:

  • President Christopher Fiorentino sent out an email to all students that included voter registration information. He followed up with a reminder email to students the night before Election Day, with information about local polling locations; the shuttle bus running regularly between the South Campus Club House and the polling location for most of those students (Hillsdale Elementary School); and encouraging students to embrace the power of their vote.
  • Leading up to the election, voter registration and polling information was circulated throughout campus, for example, chalked on sidewalks, scrolling advertisements on TV monitors, flyers, posters, on napkin dispensers in the cafeteria, on the University homepage, and other methods. Voting precinct maps were also created and circulated across campus.
  • Campus hosted several events such as National Voter Registration Day and Your Vote: Know Before You Go, which took place on September 26 and was sponsored by the Center for Women and Gender Equity, Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs, departments of political science, women's and gender studies, graduate social work, and English. A panel of five University professors discussed reproductive rights, family leave, LGBTQ+ rights, pay equity, and affordable tuition through a non-partisan lens. To close the event, a student leader showed nearly 100 students how to register and find their polling locations.
  • In July, more than 900 students registered to vote during Summer Orientation Part 1, while during Summer Orientation Part 2 a student leader gave a five-minute presentation to all 2,500 incoming students about the importance of voter registration, how to register, and how to find their polling locations. These students were also sent a text message with a link to register online.

West Chesterhas made a strong statement about the civic mission of higher education to prepare students to be engaged participants in our democracy and is excited to continue engaging students through 2017, 2018, and beyond.

"Faculty, staff, and administrators felt a responsibility toward arming our students with the knowledge to think critically about today's pressing social problems and encouraged students to both vote and engage with their communities," noted Jodi Roth-Saks, director of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs. "Voter education and political dialogues were popping up all over campus. Chris Stangl from the department of political science and I took a step back and decided we needed to assist staff and faculty with collaborating. After all, teaching civic responsibility is one of the most important things we can do as educators."

The institutions designated Voter Friendly Campuses represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural, and urban campuses, with a total enrollment of nearly 1.4 million students.

The Fair Elections Legal Network's Campus Vote Project works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting and helps campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote.