By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–IU Southeast has received a Silver Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for its efforts to boost student voting in local, state and federal elections in 2016.
The ALL IN Challenge honors colleges and universities committed to increasing student voting rates. The Silver Seal represents achieving a voting rate between 60% and 69%.
According to Seuth Chaleunphonh, dean of student life, IU Southeast student voting improved from 54.8% in 2012 to 60.4% in 2016. This is far above the national average of 50%.
Students 25 and older helped increase the overall campus voting rate, but the 18-21 year old age group showed the most dramatic change, with a 13% rise. English, journalism, communication and education majors had the highest rates of voting (67%-76%).
These numbers give IU Southeast one of the highest student voting rates among participating campuses in Indiana, according to the ALL IN Challenge.
The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a national awards program, and an initiative of Civic Nation, a nonprofit that uses organizing, engagement and public awareness to address some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. The ALL IN Challenge encourages higher education institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship, and make democratic participation a core value on their campus. By joining the ALL IN Challenge, campuses commit to:
- Convening a campus-wide committee that includes members from academic affairs, student affairs and the student body, as well as other relevant stakeholders;
- Developing and implementing an action plan to improve democratic engagement;
- Participating in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) in order to measure student voting rates;
- Sharing their campus’ action plan and NSLVE results in order to be eligible for a recognition seal and/or awards.
More than 300 campuses, enrolling more than four million students, have joined the ALL IN Challenge since its launch in summer 2016.
The effort at IU Southeast began when Mark Jallayu, SGA president, initiated the project by seeking support from other student organizations. A campaign was developed that ran from the end of September through Nov. 8 under the slogan, “Know Voting, Know Change—No Voting, No Change.” A grant from the Indiana Campus Compact administered by Campus Life and the Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement helped to fund events such as four debate watch parties and an election night party held in collaboration with the College Republicans, College Democrats and the Political Science Club. Issues related to the election inspired forums dealing with Black Lives Matter, locker-room talk, bullying, body-shaming and more.
The project registered 30 students to vote onsite and even more online using Turbo Vote, taught students how to find candidate information online, and engaged them to distribute some 250 fliers in their communities. The fliers alone impacted 27 hometown communities and 13 counties in the Kentuckiana region.
Importantly, the campaign was supported by administration and faculty, who promoted the watch parties, led out-of-class discussions and forums, and helped with promotion via social media. From Residence Life and the Office of Marketing and Communications to the Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement and The Horizon newspaper, many areas of campus were willing and able to lend effort to the campaign.
The full-court press on voting reflects a campus-wide emphasis on getting students more involved, which is widely seen as a key to persistence and, ultimately, success.
“Increased engagement leads to an increased sense of belonging and more active learning, which leads to higher rates of commitment to graduation,” Chaleunphonh said.
For students, the events held on campus were a valuable source of information as well as an informal laboratory of ideas, debate and action.
“The higher level of involvement is important because it shows that students care about our democracy and the issues that impact us all,” Jallayu said. “It shows that they want to have a say in our shared future.”