Higher education has a fundamental purpose to prepare young adults for “concerned and involved citizenship in a democracy”1

At the first-ever ALL IN Challenge Awards Ceremony, held to recognize colleges and universities committed to increasing college student voting rates, Towson University received a silver seal for achieving a student rate between 60% and 69%.

“Towson University is honored to receive this national recognition for our efforts to increase voter engagement. TU has long been committed to increasing voter registration and voter education and has worked across campus to make this happen. The collaborations between the Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility along with the Student Government Association created a positive impact in last year’s election. TU is committed in graduating students who are ready to be leaders and engaged citizens ready to solve some of the country’s, and the world’s, most pressing challenges.” Dr. Deb Moriarty, Vice President of Student Affairs

Student participation in elections has increased in the past few years. A recent report, “Democracy Counts: A Report on U.S. College and University Student Voting” from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), an initiative of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy in Higher Education, shows that between the 2012 presidential election, and the 2016 presidential election, student voting went from 45.1% of eligible voters in 2012 to 48.3% in 2016—a 7% improvement.

Towson University’s NSLVE data showed a 2016 registration rate of 87.1, which is 6.3% higher than 2012; and a Voting Rate of 60.7%, which was 4.9% higher than 2012. It was exciting to see that the students at Towson University stepped up during the past election and making their voices be heard. This information has provided a wonderful snapshot as we start to look forward to the 2018’s mid-term election. Towson University’s success was devoted to the four buckets of voter engagement: voter registration, voter education, ballot access, and voter turnout.

Voter Registration
  • TurboVote / Voter Registration Drives—Towson University had three major voter registration/TurboVote sign-up drives on campus before Early Voting Week began.
  • Partnership with the Andrew Goodman Foundation on Voter Registration Drives—Towson University had two students serving as an Andrew Goodman Foundation Liaison, Usjid Hameed and Sophie Bertrand.
Voter Education
  • Voter Education Drive—The Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility partnered with Dr. John McTague’s Senior Seminar and Political Science 103 classes to put on a voter education drive Working in groups, the students chose topics related to presidential elections and presented them at four different sessions on campus.
  • Debate Viewing Parties—The Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility and the Andrew Goodman Foundation partnered to host two debate viewing parties during the campaign.
  • New York Times Talks / Campus Conversations—The Office of Civic Engagement & Social Responsibility put on four facilitated discussions centered around relevant issues in the news, and this semester was primarily focused on voting and campaign platform issues. Campus Conversations covered the topics of Effective Political Discourse and Community Values and Cooperation.
Ballot Access
  • Towson University has the benefit of being a polling place, both for early voting and Election Day. Ballot access efforts on campus focused on encouraging Maryland students to utilize the polling place in the Administration building during Early Voting Week. TurboVote helped with ballot access as well, providing TU students with the opportunity to get their absentee ballot request form sent to them at school and begin the absentee voting process.
Voter Turnout
  • At each voter engagement event in the fall semester, coalition members handed out flyers with early and Election Day voting information. During Early Voting week, volunteers walked through heavily-trafficked sections of campus handing out voter information and answering questions about early voting and Election Day voting.

“I am proud to honor Towson University with an ALL IN Challenge Silver seal in recognition of their dedication, hard work, and achievement,” said Zaneeta E. Daver, director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “TU is not only ensuring that a more representative population participates in our nation’s democracy, but is educating students to be civic-minded. They are an example to be emulated.”

The All IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a national awards program. The 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 Challenge, campuses commit to:

  • Convening a campus-wide committee that includes members from academic affairs, student affairs, and the student body, as well as any 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; and
  • 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 4 million students, have joined the Challenge since its launch in summer 2016. A full list of seal awardees can be viewed here.

Towson University believes in preparing young adults for “concerned and involved citizenship in a democracy.” Voting is important, but only one component. Fortunately, these initiatives will motivate our students toward the creation of a more comprehensive perspective on the complex issues facing our nation, which will produce advancements for all involved and create a better future.

1 Pascarella, E. T., Ethington, C. A., and Smart, J. C. (1988). The Influence of College on Humanitarian/Civic Involvement Values. Journal of Higher Education, 59(4): 412-437.