Founding Fifteen Campus Connections: University of California-Berkeley


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 California-Berkeley reflected on the past ten years and their hopes for the future of civic engagement on the campus in Berkeley, California.

The University of California-Berkeley 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?

According to NSLVE, only 52.3% of UC Berkeley students were registered to vote and 19.1% actually voted back in 2014. Despite its activist reputation, in the 2000s and early 2010s UC Berkeley wasn’t successful at turning its students into engaged citizens, a trend that was unfortunately prevalent across the country.

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?

One of the biggest victories we achieved this year that marks a monumental shift in an age-old problem with campus voting was our designation of the UC Berkeley Public Service Center as our campus polling location for the foreseeable future. For countless years, there have been annual meetings and debates over where to host the campus polling location for primary and general elections. The location had shifted many times over the years based on funding and space availability before we were finally able to secure a space that is planned to be used for every election from 2024 onward!

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

Overall, the staff and student body have both grown tremendously in the right direction of supporting civic engagement and voting on campus. As youth voter turnout began to rise nationally, UC Berkeley also started to see the commensurate rises in it student body, and student organizing has been able to use that momentum and expand into a much less apathetic campus.

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?

As incredible civil and voting rights activists, we feel everything we do is in honor of them and all of the other leaders who came before us. From hosting voter registration drives at speaking events featuring activists and politicians to leading voter education presentations at community events, we try to imbue their passion for creating a better future through civic engagement and direct voter contact into all of our programming. 

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

The Vote Everywhere program has been an immense help throughout all the work that we do with democracy on campus. With out check in calls we are able to get critical advice on the work we are doing and contextualize our issues within the broader AGF universe. Additionally, Caroline and the AGF has always been there to support out programs and advocacy campaigns wherever helpful.

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

Our team envisions a campus where civic education and engagement are imbued into our culture and practice. We hope there will be two on-campus polling locations, multiple ballot drop boxes, and broad institutional support for student engagement and voter turnout. We see a future where civics is a part of every classroom and Election Day is celebrated as Democracy Day, giving students the opportunity to focus on civic engagement and voting, rather than their classes and other responsibilities. We dream of a student body that turns out at record rates across all backgrounds with the support of the combined efforts of students, staff, faculty, and community members. With the help of the Andrew Goodman Foundation and our incredible team of student leaders, this future won’t be far off!

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

To take our team to the next level this election cycle, we are working on shifting our mission away from just registering the most voters possible, to instead serving as the hub for civic engagement and education on campus. By using our connections and resources to empower community-based engagement on campus, we have already seen that our funding and educational materials lead to a much stronger, lasting impact on student civic participation. We are planning on developing stronger partnerships with identity-based organizations to better support communities with a history of disenfranchisement. Additionally, we will be using our partners to expand the reach of our voter registration events beyond our traditional tabling sites.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

We’d like to give a special shout-out to Caroline Smith for being such an incredible guide through all of the work we do!

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.