Our Role in Encouraging Students to Vote

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Message from Isis Artze-Vega, Vice President, Academic Affairs

Our democracy relies on participation, yet historically, young people have voted at lower rates than older adults. Individuals least likely to be civically engaged include those from racially and ethnically underrepresented groups, the children of parents with less formal education, and individuals living in poorer neighborhoods. Our Valencia College general education outcome of ethical responsibility includes demonstrated awareness of personal responsibility in one’s civic life. We therefore have a responsibility and opportunity to engage our students in the democratic process, in a variety of non-partisan ways. Encouragement from faculty, staff, and other students has been shown to make a significant difference in student registration and turnout.

Can you really encourage voting? You may be wondering if you will be crossing any lines or doing something inappropriate by encouraging your students to vote. As an institution that receives federal funding, we are required by the Higher Education Act to promote voter registration; and as College employees, we may inform students of the upcoming election, make students aware of which positions and initiatives will be on the ballot, without endorsing a particular candidate or position, and encourage them to talk to their peers and families about voting.

Here are three approaches you might take:

1. Assist with voting planning. Since our students have busy lives and many dates and deadlines to remember, we can be mindful of and remind students about key dates, avoid scheduling exams or having major assessments due on election day, and/or show students how to make a voting plan. A voting plan might include where they will vote, how (by mail or in-person), when (early or on Tuesday, November 3, 2020) and whether they have the necessary documents to vote. Using the State of Florida Voter Information Lookup, students can find their polling place, a sample ballot and their vote-by-mail ballot status.

  • Early Voting Period for the General Election: Monday, October 19 – Sunday, November 1, 2020
  • Vote-by-mail Ballot Request for the General Election: Saturday, October 24, 2020
  • Vote-by-mail Ballot Return Deadline: by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, 2020

2. Share resources on voting and media literacy. Valencia’s Library staff prepared a LibGuide to help the Valencia College community apply research skills to become informed voters. The LibGuide also includes guidance on how to prepare to respond to ballot measures, such as proposed constitutional amendments.

3. Discuss elections or ballot issues in a non-partisan manner. Given the polarized nature of our political landscape, discussing elections or ballot issues with students can be challenging, yet these discussions represent an important opportunity to promote learning. It has been well established that engaging in constructive conversation with fellow students can improve students’ listening skills, teach them to respect differing views and develop their ability to think critically about complex topics. Living Room Conversations Guides, explicitly designed to provide a structure for discussing important issues across differing political affiliations and backgrounds, include discussion norms and conversation templates and can thus help you carefully design discussions. In general, students should be asked to make evidence-based contributions, and faculty should take great care to facilitate a respectful conversation, and to avoid injecting their own partisan beliefs, thus modeling how to discuss politics in a civil, nonpartisan way.

If you have questions about the information or suggestions above, please email me at iartzevega@valenciacollege.edu.

Civic Engagement Committee

Chairs: Robyn Brighton, Director, Strategic Learn Initiatives; Emilie Buckley, Librarian; and Stefania Salerno, Student Government Association Osceola Campus President

Members: Kelly Astro, Director, Horizon Scholars Program; Joshua Austin, Director, Student Development; Joy Benjamin-Fieulleteau, Assistant Director, Bridges Program; Marsha Butler, Faculty, New Student Experience; Scott Creamer, Dean, Humanities/Social Science; Diane Dalrymple, Librarian; Kimberly Foster, Faculty, New Student Experience; Adrienne Mathews, Professor, Political Science; Mia Pierre-Wall, Faculty, New Student Experience; Landon Shephard, Dean, Learning Support; Dhiya Suresh, Valencia CEEP Fellow; Marlene Temes, Interim Dean, Academic Affairs; and Daniel Turner, Faculty, New Student Experience

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