Note: This letter to the editor was submitted by the AU-SPLC on Campus Executive Board and its president Beth McDaniel. The letter is part of a broader proposal to increase voter participation among Auburn students. You can view the full proposal here.
A functioning and healthy democracy is dependent upon inclusive civic participation. Given the fundamental importance of civic engagement, AU-SPLC On Campus has generated a proposal to improve the civic institutions of Auburn University and by proximity, the City of Auburn.
Democratic participation in young adulthood contributes to the development of civically engaged adults, which has a positive impact on the future of our democracy. Shifting demographics in the current voting population place greater power in the hands of young people. Therefore, college campuses are uniquely positioned to contribute to the development of civically engaged young adults and to the maintenance of a healthy and functioning democracy. Despite the costs or the planning involved, voting is a pillar of American democracy, and efforts to engage students will have benefits that extend beyond the walls of our institution.
Auburn University is specially poised in the democratic process, given that the Board of Trustees is headed by the candidate elected to the office of the governor. Therefore, Auburn students have a unique stake in elections, which is one reason that Auburn University should proactively encourage student participation in state elections. Further, the practice of voting helps establish a more fair and equitable country that strengthens the power of democracy for us and for our future.
With our potential contribution in mind, it is important to recognize the unique barriers young adults face when it comes to voting participation. These include transportation barriers, educational conflicts such as exams, projects, or attendance policies, the false narrative that young adults do not care about social issues or democratic participation, and a lack of attention to issues that impact younger voters.
Our goal is the creation of a voter friendly campus that emphasizes student engagement and strengthens student voice in the community. We have the structures and resources in place to achieve this goal, and all we lack is the political willpower to make it happen.
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Therefore, supported by both the values of democracy and the Auburn Creed, we urge Auburn University to implement the following four initiatives to begin the path towards a voter friendly campus. These policies create a culture that values, supports, and institutionalizes democratic engagement and emphasizes the importance of student participation in, and contribution to, political, social, and civic life.
1. Call for the establishment of a polling place on campus.
2. Request the utilization of Tiger Transit to provide transportation to the polls.
3. Request that election day be designated a university holiday.
4. Solicit the broader community support for engagement and participation.
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