Founding Fifteen Campus Connections: Miami University

This year, AGF is celebrating ten years of impact with the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Program. One of “Founding Fifteen” campuses, the Campus Team at Miami University reflected on the past ten years and their hopes for the future of civic engagement on the campus in Oxford, Ohio.

Miami University has been an Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere campus since the program began back in 2014! What barriers to voting existed on campus prior to 2014?

While there were students and faculty interested in increasing civic engagement and voting rates at Miami University in 2014, before the AGF program and collective efforts, it was hard for those who were passionate to connect and work together. Through different organizations and initiatives on campus in the last 10 years, there are now programs and practices in place for everyone to get involved and engaged in furthering civic engagement. Also, voter ID laws are constantly changing in Ohio, as they just did in 2023, so keeping voters up to date on these changes and how to correctly provide identification at the polls is something that differed in 2014.

From what you know of how things were in 2014, when it comes to voting and civic engagement on campus, what are some of the most noticeable changes?

Miami University has been continuously working towards increasing civic engagement and awareness on campus. The most noticeable change is our increased voting rate, which tracks how many eligible students voted. This rate has gone from 60.1% in 2016 to 70.5% in 2020. The registration rate, which is the amount of eligible students who are registered to vote, has also increased. The university received three Campus Democracy Challenge Awards for Excellence in Student Voter Engagement in the years of 2016, 2018, and 2020 to reflect these increases. Most recently, the University created a “Voting Navigator” form that allows students to figure out their options for voting based on their variable personal situations. Overall, these awards and initiatives showcase Miami students increasing participation in civic engagement opportunities.

How has the general campus’ perception of voting and civic engagement evolved since 2014?

Since 2014, there are now more visible efforts and collective action on Miami University’s campus for increasing voter participation and civic engagement. In addition, there are more advertised events, voter registration tabling, coalition action, and national organization connection because of organizations like AGF that connect campuses to a greater cause. Also, we work to increase the importance of these topics on campus through action like advocating for Election Day to be an Academic Holiday. 

How has your Campus Team reflected on the legacy of Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Freedom Summer 1964 over these ten years?

Miami University and the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Ambassadors have been working towards increasing student body knowledge about Freedom Summer and Miami University’s role in the event. Western College at Miami University was designated a Freedom Station by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in 2018. The Freedom Summer of ‘64 award has been given out every year since 2018 to honor those who are fighting for social justice causes and civil rights. Along with these institutional accomplishments, there has been an increase in students and local community members engaging with Freedom Summer, such as through a traveling art exhibit for local elementary students about Freedom Summer, as well as a recent choral commemoration.

What are some ways that the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program has supported your efforts on campus to increase voter and civic engagement?

The Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program has consistently supported our efforts on campus and in the Oxford community for increasing voter and civic engagement. Through meetings with our program manager, Mia Matthews, we work together to learn about support and ways to follow through with our ideas and initiatives. Also, AGF provides information, case studies, and experiences of other campuses participating in the program, so we constantly have ways to brainstorm and get support for new ideas or altering current ones.

What are your hopes and dreams for what civic engagement will look like on campus ten years from now?

We hope that in the future there will be an academic holiday for Election Day. One of the biggest reported barriers to students voting was coursework and class meeting times. Students said that making Election Day an academic holiday at Miami University would allow them to have more time to get to their polling location, be able to go to their hometown and vote, and make voting easier to fit into their schedule. Our overall hope is that more students become aware, educated, and involved in the voting process, as well as civic engagement as a whole.

What are the team’s main goals to increase and support voter engagement and turnout in 2024?

In 2024, we are working on various initiatives to support and increase Miami University student voter engagement and turnout. Specifically, we are focusing on connecting students to the polls through transportation and educating students about various ways to vote, such as absentee voting, voting in your home county, and more. Also, we are working to prioritize Election Day as an academic holiday, recognized by the University, so students have more time and the opportunity to vote.

Stay tuned as we continue our Campus Connections series, featuring each of our Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Campus Teams, the impact made on campus, and how they are living the legacy during this pivotal point in our nation’s history.