(Charleston, IL) – Eastern Illinois University was one of less than 250 colleges and universities nationwide designated as a Voter Friendly Campus by the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (NASPA) and the Fair Election Center’s Campus Vote Project.
According to Campus Vote Project announcement, EIU was recognized as one of the 234 colleges and universities across 37 states and the District of Columbia for “engag[ing] their campus communities and promot[ing] voter registration and voting as part of their institutional mission.” The goal of the Voter Friendly Campus designation program is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process, and to develop a culture of democratic engagement on campus.
“Democracy is a fundamental cornerstone of the American experience,” said Dr. Anne Flaherty, vice president for Student Affairs at EIU. “We are proud that EIU is able to play such an active role in encouraging our students to engage in local and national politics and to make their voices heard by participating in our country’s most fundamental democratic process.”
Flaherty acknowledged EIU’s Civic Engagement & Volunteerism area, including director Beth Gillespie and her dedicated team, for spearheading EIU’s effort to help its students with voting access during an unprecedented year, jolted by the 2020 COVID pandemic.
The institutions designated Voter Friendly Campuses represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural, and urban campuses. Notably, the list of designated institutions includes many Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The program ultimately serves more than 3.5 million students.
Despite the enormous hurdles caused by a global pandemic, campus representatives participated in trainings to develop, implement and report results for engagement programs that encouraged their students to register and vote. Campus administrators, faculty, and students rose to the challenge of a drastically changed engagement landscape, remote and hybrid learning environments, and rapidly changing election laws to quickly adapt efforts to support their students through the 2020 election cycle.
Ultimately campuses were evaluated on their ability to complete a three-step process. These included writing a campus plan about how they would engage student voters in 2020, facilitating voter education and engagement efforts on their campus, and writing a final analysis on their efforts.
“This year brought incredible challenges to the many professionals on campuses who are dedicated to encouraging and increasing student civic engagement,” said NASPA President Kevin Kruger. “We are thrilled that in spite of these challenges, a record number of campuses are being honored this year with the Voter Friendly Campus designation. The completion of the Voter Friendly Campus designation process speaks to the unwavering commitment of campus administrators who ensure students are educated about, have access to, and ultimately are empowered to have their voices heard in the democratic process.”
Studies suggest that motivating students to register and vote establishes civic habits that last well beyond the collegiate experience. Incorporating democratic engagement into campus life creates structure and stability for students as they explore their political beliefs, and how they would like to engage in the democratic process. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement 52 to 55 percent of voting-eligible young people aged 18-29 cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election. Student-specific voter turnout data will be available later this year via the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement produced by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education.
According to the announcement, campuses that participated in Voter Friendly Campus and similar engagement programs are undoubtedly a large factor in such historic turnout in the face of extraordinary challenges.
EIU’s Voter Friendly Campus designation is valid through December 2022.
For more information about EIU, or to learn more about its growing assortment of programs and services, visit the university’s website at www.eiu.edu, or call EIU’s public information office at (217) 581-7400.