Cleveland State University joins over 231 campuses across 37 states and the District of Columbia in receiving the “Voter Friendly Campus” designation, an initiative led by Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project (CVP) and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education to help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process.
CSU’s Office of Civic Engagement (OCE), housed in the School of Urban Affairs, earned this designation based on a Democracy Action Plan submitted by OCE Interim Director, Anita Ruf-Young, and OCE Graduate Assistant, Anthony Kukura. Due to COVID-19, the OCE had to modify its Democracy Action Plan and rethink how we could still engage with our campus community in a safe and meaningful way during a critical election year that required hybrid learning. The plan provided a roadmap on how they would register, educate and turnout student voters in 2020, along with a final analysis of their efforts.
“The OCE is pleased to have earned the Voter Friendly Designation for our campus again and is grateful to our campus and community partners that helped us achieve it,” said Anita Ruf-Young. “Civic engagement on our campus is something that we believe should be encouraged every year, not just during presidential elections. Local leaders have tremendous influence over our day to day lives, which more people took notice of during the ongoing pandemic. Mask mandates, stay at home orders, and curfews are all policies implemented by local officials. Simply put, local elections matter, and it is our civic responsibility to convey this to our CSU campus community.”
Officials at CSU’s Office of Civic Engagement plan to take what they have learned over the past year and apply it to a new focus on the importance of local elections, such as the 2021 Cleveland mayoral race.
The OCE’s ongoing efforts to institutionalize voter and civic engagement on CSU’s campus has always depended on strategic partnership development, and according to Ruf-Young, this became even more crucial during the 2020 election cycle. “The OCE made an aggressive effort to pursue additional partnerships that could assist us in expanding our on-campus reach during this unprecedented time. The OCE forged fourteen new campus and community partnerships which added to our already strong existing partnership coalition,” she added. These civic partnerships and efforts resulted in the voter registration of close to one thousand students, faculty, and staff. In partnership with WorkElections, over 180 CSU students were recruited as 2020 Election Day poll workers.
In addition to these activities, the OCE continues to take multiple steps to promote active citizenship readiness throughout CSU’s campus during reduced on-campus interactions resulting from COVID-19. The OCE, along with its Campus Election Engagement Project and Campus Vote Project Democracy Fellows, hosted nine outdoor voter registration and poll worker recruitment tables during the month of September. These tables gave students options to register to vote, apply to vote by mail, apply to be an election day poll worker, and ask election day related questions. Other notable outreach activities included offering Zoom presentations to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to foster engagement and participation among CSU’s student athletes, and partnering with Bird Rides and CSU’s Office of Sustainability to offer students free environmentally friendly rides to the polls.
Further, an innovative nonpartisan curriculum developed by the OCE called Vikes Vote! was recently implemented for first year CSU students, and the OCE also ran an informational “Social Media Interview Series” focusing on the 2020 election cycle. Speakers in this series included community professionals and campus partners such as Dr. Ronnie A. Dunn, CSU’s Interim Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Associate Professor at the School of Urban Affairs, and others with expertise on voting rights and civic engagement.
Cleveland State University has made a strong statement about the civic mission of higher education to prepare students to be engaged participants in our democracy and is excited to continue engaging students through 2021, 2022 and beyond. For more information on the CSU Office of Civic Engagement, please visit https://urban.csuohio.edu/oce/office-of-civic-engagement.
Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With nearly 16,000 students, ten colleges and schools and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2021 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report, including the #1 public university in Ohio for social mobility. Find more information at www.csuohio.edu.
NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Our work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy, and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and 8 U.S. territories.
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.