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Founding Fifteen Campus Connections: University Of Utah

 

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 the University of Utah reflected on the past ten years and their hopes for the future of civic engagement on the campus in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The University of Utah 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?

The biggest barrier to voting prior to 2014 was the lack of an on-campus voting location, which the University of Utah did not have until 2016. This made it more difficult for students to access voting. Prior to the rise of social media, it was more difficult to reach students across campus to make them aware of election dates and procedures.

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?

Having an on-campus voting location has made a huge difference; many students at the University of Utah utilize on-campus voting which is usually housed at the Marriott Library. Having an on campus voting location not only makes it easier for students to vote but also raises awareness of elections. The rise of social media has made it much easier for AGF ambassadors to engage with students on campus. We always utilize social media to make students aware of voter registration drives, voting dates and locations etc.

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

The University of Utah has continued to recognize the importance of student voter turnout and that led to having an on campus polling location which has made voting and elections more visible to the student body. There has also been an increased amount of voter registration drives on campus over the past decade. We often partner with the Utah League of Women Voters, the Marriott Library and various campus organizations to host voter registration drives throughout the academic year. In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of social issues that have mobilized students to become more politically active. We talk to so many students all across campus who are incredibly passionate about various social issues and want to find the most effective way to bring about change.

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?

Andrew Goodman Ambassadors at the University of Utah continue to be inspired by the legacy of Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney and Michael Schwerner. We firmly believe that every citizen deserves the opportunity to exercise their right to vote, and we want to continue to encourage students to take an active role in the democratic process as the legacy of Freedom Summer 1964 has shown how ordinary citizens can be a catalyst for change. University of Utah students are passionate about so many social issues and as Andrew Goodman Ambassadors, we want to help them find ways to make their voices heard and educate them about civic engagement so that they can go into their communities and enact change.

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 helped provide a framework for how to engage with students and educate them on the importance of voting and civic engagement. AGF has helped support us through generous funding which has allowed us to carry out events like election night watch parties in 2016. AGF has also helped create a community for students to advocate for change and fight against injustice. AGF allows students to take the initiative and provides the resources we need to help students register to vote, educate students about voting rights and conduct various activities to get students civically engaged.

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

We would love to see voter registration become embedded in new student orientation so that every new student at the U has an opportunity to easily register to vote. We hope to see a sharp increase in the number of students that are registered voters and a sharp increase in voter turnout on campus. We hope that not only will the U continue to have an on campus polling location, but that university classes will not be held on election days so that all university students can go out and vote. We hope to see more university offices, student clubs, and community partners continuing to work together to help students with voter registration efforts and voter education.

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

We will heavily focus on the 2024 General Election. The Hinckley Institute of Politics at the U will have a lot of presidential programming and there will be plenty of opportunities for Andrew Goodman Ambassadors to be involved with the various events that will be held. We hope to continue to build new partnerships on campus with student government organizations like ASUU and groups such as the Black Student Union and the Center for Equity and Student Belonging. We will continue to utilize social media to reach new parts of campus – we typically use the Hinckley Institute’s various social media platforms to promote AGF programming but this year we hope to start our own social media accounts. We will hold voter registration drives with the Utah League of Women Voters and will work to get more student organizations involved in these efforts. We hope to partner with the Hinckley Institute to hold a forum during the fall 2024 semester that focuses on the election and the importance of civic engagement.

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.