Today, Southwestern University is one of 231 campuses in 37 states and the District of Columbia designated as a Voter-Friendly Campus. This is the third time that Southwestern has been designated as a Voter-Friendly Campus. The initiative, led by the national nonpartisan organizations Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), held participating institutions accountable for planning and implementing practices that have encouraged their students to register and vote in the 2020 and forthcoming elections.

The mission of the Voter-Friendly Campus designation is to bolster efforts that help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process. SU was evaluated based on a campus plan for registering, educating, and turning out student voters in 2020; voter-engagement efforts on campus; and a final analysis of the institution’s efforts in the face of the upheaval caused by a global pandemic. The designation is valid through December 2022.  

Southwestern University has made a strong statement about the civic mission of higher education to prepare students to be engaged in our democracy and is excited to continue engaging students through 2021 and beyond. SU Votes!, the coalition promoting voter registration, education, and turnout, includes representatives from many campus departments, student leaders, and faculty. Using data from previous reports of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, Southwestern identified a goal to increase our overall voting rate to 55% during the 2020 election. Our long-term goals continue to focus on promoting civil public discourse around elections and politics, improving the voter turnout of underrepresented groups, and increasing students’ self-efficacy. The goals align with Southwestern’s core values of encouraging activism in the pursuit of justice and the common good and promoting lifelong learning and a passion for intellectual and personal growth.

The institutions designated Voter-Friendly Campuses represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural, and urban campuses. Notably, the list of designated institutions includes many Minority-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

SU Votes! student leader Eugenia Gabrielle Agobe ’23 shares, “Being a Southwestern Pirate means a lot of things: acting with honesty and integrity, supporting your peers, and leaving your community better off at the end of your four years here. Our Voter-Friendly Campus designation is the result of all of those traits working in concert. As a result of working with the SU Votes! team, I not only learned about the power of my vote and my voice but also was fortunate enough to create deep, meaningful partnerships with other student leaders on campus that I know will continue to grow. And, of course, this would not have been possible without faculty and staff like Dr. Brackmann [senior director of integrative and community-engaged learning] and Dr. Sydnor [assistant professor of political science], who are unbelievably generous with their time and knowledge and committed to developing the next generation of leaders.”

NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. The Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan voting-rights and legal-support organization that works to eliminate barriers to voting and improve election administration across the United States. Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students, and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting and helps campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote.