October 29, 2008 Your Monthly Source of Community Service-Learning News VOL.6, NO. 3

CSU Campuses are Encouraging Participation in One of Our Country's Most Important Rights and Responsibilities - VOTING!

CSU Dominguez Hills students participating in the iVote CampaignCSU Dominguez Hills students participating in the iVote CampaignCSU Dominguez Hills students participating in the iVote Campaign

Read about some of the incredible efforts to engage the largest student body in the country in this historic presidential election.

San Francisco State University’s Class: The 2008 Presidential Election

For the past five years, San Francisco State University has offered a unique, interdisciplinary course (and public-lecture series) intended to help the campus community and the general public better understand contemporary social and public-policy issues.  This fall, the course turned its spotlight on the 2008 Presidential Election.  The 330 students enrolled in the course are critically examining the presidential electoral process and the 2008 campaign issues in light of their historical, social, economic, political and cultural context with the help of distinguished SFSU faculty from a variety of disciplines through panels, roundtables and group discussions.

On November 4, the class will gather to watch election night results on TV with real-time analysis by SFSU political science professors. This 2-unit credit/no-credit course, offered through the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, is open to both regular and College of Extended Learning students and meets over 15 weeks. The course, co-facilitated by Dean Joel J. Kassiola and Kathryn Johnson, Coordinator for Special Projects, has included panel topics such as Republican and Democratic Platforms and Campaigns; How Elections Work; The Role of Race and Gender; and Campaign Issues, such as the economy, the environment, K-12 education and higher education, the war in Iraq and the war on terror, immigration, and health care.  After the election, the course will focus on post-election analysis, retrospectives on the primaries and the general election, and visions of the new administration for the next four years.

In past years, the course has centered on themes such as, The United States and the World Post 9/11; The 2004 Presidential Election: Issues and Analysis; and The Promise vs. the Reality in the California Governor’s 2008 Election.

CSU Dominguez Hills’ iVote Campaign

In a collaborative effort between the Center for Service Learning, Internships, and Civic Engagement; Associated Students, Inc.; the Office of Student Life; and the Office of Governmental Relations, CSU Dominguez Hills implemented the iVote Campaign,  a Campus Compact initiative encouraging higher education institutions to help educate and empower students to vote and to make the process of staying engaged easier throughout the sometimes confusing election season. The iVote registration booth registered 479 students, including CSU Dominguez Hills President, Mildred Garcia, when she registered as a new California voter.

Connecting the election to coursework, students in three political science classes are collaborating to research all issues on the ballot and then educate the campus and the community with non-partisan panels, town halls and posters placed near the iVote booth.  University 101 students also volunteered at the iVote registration booth as a part of their class assignment.

This fall, with its membership quadrupling from 20 to more than 90, the Association of Political Science Students (APSS) launched a new program, Meet Your Local Representative/Foreign Dignitary.”  A series of six events will be held throughout the academic year in order for students to examine first-hand the role of public-policy officials and consider careers in government.  “[The program] really helps us to see our future in a clearer sense,” says Henry Fields, a senior majoring in political science. “It reaffirms that political careers are attainable for us. When we meet our local representatives and dignitaries, they explain to us how they got interested in politics. It also helps us figure out if we want to give back to our communities by entering politics.”   APSS also hosted pre-election activities on campus, such as a viewing of the presidential debates and a presidential election forum, and they will host a post-election forum on November 13.

CSU San Marcos’s Pizza, Politics, Debates and Concerts

The American Democracy Project (ADP) at CSU San Marcos has partnered with a number of campus organizations in order to provide a plethora of opportunities to learn about the issues of this election, stimulate respectful dialogue and increase civic participation on campus and within the larger community.

At the beginning of October, ADP kicked-off its second year of Pizza and Politics, an initiative aimed at creating a safe place in which to civilly discuss political issues, with the first gathering focusing on the economy.  More than 80 students and some faculty listened to a presentation and then participated in a discussion about each candidate’s positions on jobs, taxes, the current financial crisis, and the economic policy proposals outlined by the candidates.  Foreign policy and immigration are two other Pizza and Politics topics scheduled for October.

College Republicans and College Democrats held their very first debate on October 14, before an audience of 150.  Students answered questions on the economy, education, energy security, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care and climate change.  They also took questions from student participants.  Both sides were well represented, and the debate took on an educational tone, a major goal the student groups were hoping to accomplish.  The debate can be watched on-line from the Associated Students website.  That evening, the students attended a community debate-watch at the City Hall Council Chambers sponsored by the local League of Women Voters, a non-partisan voter-education organization, and then took part in another debate.

The Women’s Studies department and ADP sponsored a panel discussion on the 2008 elections with particular focus on women in the election, media coverage of women candidates and California ballot propositions.

Additionally, various student clubs sponsored “Debate Watch” events, a “Rock the Vote” concert, and rallies.  On election night, students will be encouraged to gather at the Clarke Field House after voting to watch election returns with friends, sponsored by the CSUSM University Activities Board, the American Democracy Project, College Democrats, College Republicans, the Political Science Club and Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honor Society.

Fresno State’s Why 1509? Campaign

Fresno State students were being asked Why 1509? in September and October.  This campaign is part of a broad voter education, registration and mobilization (VERM) effort taking place at CSU Fresno.  Co-sponsored by the Jan and Bud Ritcher Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning and Associated Students Inc., the goals of the campaign are to educate students, register 1,509 students, and hold voter-mobilization events. 

Sarait Martinez, one of the two student coordinators in charge of the project said, “We believe that if students are educated about the issues, they will be more likely to register and vote.  We have a number of events that will help do this, including tabling in high-traffic areas, classroom ‘raps’, ‘dorm storms’ [teams go door-to-door in the residence halls encouraging students to register and vote], ‘Pizza and Politics’ events [open-discussion forums facilitated by faculty], and debate-watch parties.”  Why 1509? events are now in full swing and the campus anticipates strong participation on November 4.

San José State’s Vote for Our Future Campaign

At San José State, just as on many other CSU campuses, the effort to engage students politically this fall was a group effort.  Associated Students coordinated a voter-registration drive.  The Center for Community Learning and Leadership hosted the League of Women Voters at their Community Connections Fair; hosted a successful “ServiceNation Panel” and involved 100 students in the ServiceNation “National Day of Action” on September 27.  The College of Social Sciences hosted a symposium on the presidential election, and the Office of Public Affairs hosted a voter registration rally, “Vote for Our Future.” 

Shuba Hampole, a student intern in the Center for Community Learning and Leadership, worked to promote the rally and had this to write about her experiences:

“I eagerly offered to volunteer in the Office of Public Affairs to promote the on-campus voter registration rally.  This rally had the potential to attract previously uninformed or busy college students.  It is important for each student to participate in the political process of voting; each voice will contribute to the collective opinions influencing the outcome of the November 2008 election. . .  The seven speakers [at the rally] clearly stirred the students to register to vote.  Approximately 130 students registered during the event . . . a great success.  Each voice makes a difference in determining which direction our country takes in relation to how our lives will be impacted, locally and globally.”

SJSU president Jon Whitmore summed it all up on his blog when he wrote, “This event is more than just motivating those of you who haven't already registered to vote here today, but it's meant to encourage you to participate in the election process by voting on November 4 -- and letting these be the first steps in a lifetime of voter participation and civic engagement."

CSU Channel Islands Hosts Election-Related Lectures and a Campus to Congress Forum

In addition to coordinating a voter-registration drive through Associated Students Inc., CSU Channel Islands hosted a series of election-related lectures and forums open to the public to educate the campus and the community, inspiring participation in this election. 

  • The Political Science Program hosted C.R. Smith, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and current CSU Board of Trustees member, for a viewing and analysis of the presidential candidates’ debate on Oct. 7.
  • On October 8, Jean Schroedel, author and chairperson of the Politics and Policy Department at Claremont Graduate University, presented “18 Million Cracks in the Glass Ceiling: The Meaning of the 2008 Elections for Women.”
  • On October 13, James Thurber, Distinguished Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, presented “Campaigns and Elections American Style: Observations about the 2008 Presidential and Congressional Elections.”
  • On October 15, the student-organized Political Action Club hosted a viewing of the presidential candidates’ debate, along with reactions, questions and discussion after the debate.
  • On October 20, the Congress to Campus Program provided a public forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum and Library titled, “Congress, Bipartianship, and Political Reform,” featuring former United States Congressmen Butler Derrick (D-SC) and Dennis Smith (R-OR).
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