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Campus urging students to join political process

October 11, 2016

In anticipation of the upcoming presidential election, IUPUI has positioned itself to provide students with tools to help them be active participants in the political process. Among the programs scheduled on campus between now and Election Day are presidential debate watch parties, voter registration drives and open discussions on campaign rhetoric.

"Students can learn about the political process in class, but what does it really mean to talk about politics with their peers?" said Jessica Davis of Leadership Development and Civic Engagement within the Division of Student Affairs. "We want to create programming that equips students with the tools and skills that can create civil discourse."

In addition to leading on-campus voter registration drives and debate events, Leadership Development and Civic Engagement sponsored a mock election Oct. 5 to give students the opportunity to cast their vote for some of the higher-profile positions such as president and vice president, Indiana governor and lieutenant governor, and Indiana state senator.

Partnering with the Marion County Board of Elections, League of Women Voters and Indiana Disability Rights, Leadership and Civic Engagement also used the mock election to help students learn about their voting rights and how to get the information they need to make educated decisions in their actual polling place on Nov. 8.

Last week, Intercultural Literacy, Capacity and Engagement hosted "Negotiating Loaded Rhetoric in the Presidential Campaigns" as part of its monthly Critical Conversations series.

Voter registration has been a high priority on campus, with several drives to register in-state students throughout September and October. It is an initiative that has paid off in recent years. According to a report by The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, more than 74 percent of IUPUI students were registered to vote in 2012. More than 67 percent turned out to vote in the last presidential election, putting them above the national average of 50 percent.

While the immediate goal is to ensure that students exercise their rights as citizens this November, it is also hoped to be a long-term approach. Data shows that when young people vote in the first election for which they are eligible, they are more likely to vote in subsequent elections throughout their lifetime.

Civic programming, including the biennial L. Keith Bulen Symposium on American Politics through the College of Liberal Arts, will continue Nov. 17. The symposium addressing "The 2016 Presidential Election: Change, Revolution, or Status Quo" is free and open to the public as well as students. Registration is required by Nov. 14 and includes lunch; email Aaron Dusso at adusso@iupui.edu to register or call 317-274-7387.

Roundtable discussions on sociopolitical issues and other events offered through Leadership Development and Civic Engagement are designed to encourage involvement in the political process for the entirety of students' time on campus and beyond.

Davis describes her work in the Division of Student Affairs as being intentional with that long-term goal in mind.

"We are able to reach students in a way that will not only allow them to learn how to talk about politics, but how to be leaders in their own communities as well," she said.

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