Student leaders are mobilizing for a politically charged campus this Fall.
Duke’s student political organizations are ramping up their efforts to register students to vote and raise awareness about key issues in the Nov. 6 elections. Additionally, Duke Student Government is collaborating with several groups to host nonpartisan programs to encourage students to exercise their right to vote.
“The goal is to make things less chaotic on campus and be sharper about the information and message that we put out,” Derek Rhodes, vice president of Durham and Regional Affairs, wrote in an email Wednesday.
Organizations at Duke are partnering in a nonpartisan effort to increase student involvement in the elections and registering them to vote. Rhodes, a sophomore, added that the new partnership will better facilitate voter awareness and avoid overwhelming students with fliers and hyperpartisan, contrasting information, which occurred during the May primaries.
Participating groups include DSG, Duke Democrats, Duke College Republicans, Duke Political Union, Duke the Vote, Duke Partnership for Service, the Black Student Alliance and the New Voters Project—an organization unaffiliated with Duke dedicated to registering young people to vote.
In addition to the coalition’s debut, Rhodes confirmed that there will be an on-campus early voting site, similar to what was offered during the primary elections. He collaborated with the Durham County Board of Elections and Duke administrators—such as Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, and Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations—this past summer to bring the voting site to campus.
Despite the convenience of the voting site for the Duke community, securing an on-campus early voting site was a challenging process, Rhodes said. Costs associated with coordinating parking, accessibility, safety and renting space for the voting site raised concerns about the overall benefit of the program.
“It’s going to be very important that students take advantage of the on-campus voting site,” Rhodes said. “It determines whether the Board of Elections and our administrators are willing to take the risk and consume the cost of a site in the future.”
Activities at Duke
North Carolina’s standing as a battleground state will ensure a flurry of activism throughout the upcoming election season.
Student volunteers will reach out to voters via personal interactions and social media in conjunction with voter registration drives and phone banking to raise voter awareness of the issues and increase voter turnout.
North Carolina Young Americans for Romney plan to host an open gathering to watch Romney’s convention speech. This will form part of a larger effort to recruit students to campaign and volunteer and to better appreciate the importance of their votes, said sophomore Alex Gersovitz, student recruitment chair for NCYAFR.
“It’s important for students to be in front of a TV or to get the YouTube clip to see what the candidates are saying and to stay involved,” Gersovitz said. “That’s the only way to really understand the issues and make your vote count.”
Duke Democrats is distributing 100 tickets for Duke students to attend Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, said CDNC President Elena Botella, a senior.
College Democrats of North Carolina is also planning trips to Charlotte, Montreat and Wilmington during Fall Break to raise voter support for Democrats running for state and national offices, Botella said.
She added that CDNC is solidifying a campaign to reach out to college professors to encourage their students to register to vote in a nonpartisan manner. Professors are also encouraged to provide new perspectives on the candidates through the lenses of their respective fields, participate in volunteer events on campus and donate to the CDNC.
Duke professors are already getting involved by participating in a speaker series to raise awareness about different issues at the forefront of the elections, Botella said.
“Election season on campus this year is going to be a very exciting time,” Rhodes said. “It will be a dialogue that will go on far after the election.”
Duke students will likely focus on the economy and college affordability as they decide which box to check on their ballots come Nov. 6.
The state of the job market will be a pertinent issue in the elections, especially for juniors and seniors entering the work force, senior Paul Vanderslice, NCYAFR fraternity and sorority outreach coordinator, wrote in an email Thursday.
“Obama’s mismanagement of the economy will be our number one issue,” Vanderslice said. “Not even Duke students are immune to the weak job market that comes as a result of this imaginary recovery.”
But students will also be concerned about how the candidates’ policies will affect their ability to pay for college, sophomore David Winegar, co-president of Duke Democrats, wrote in an email Thursday.
Whereas President Barack Obama plans to create a strong middle class by investing in education, Mitt Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan’s policies would cut taxes for the rich and reduce support for students, Winegar said.
More specifically, students are concerned about student loans, co-president of Duke Democrats Adrienne Harreveld wrote in an email Wednesday. The Ryan Budget, for example, calls for cutting Pell Grants, which would disadvantage lower income students.
“Without Pell Grants, Duke would be an entirely different and economically homogenous campus,” Harreveld said.