Universities and Civic Duty

The other day I saw a post on the good old Facebook:

My first thought was: “That would be great, more people need to vote.” I liked the post and moved on with my day.

However, I started to think about it more. Universities rely largely on our political systems for financial support, as well as a delivery system for the knowledge learned in the ivory tower. Politics control what knowledge is used, and what information is ignored.  As a result, I think it is important that universities have some part in the political process.

As institutions of education, Universities should teach about all aspects of life. Many high schoolers and complain about “when are we ever going to use this stuff?!” Our voting system is a perfect chance to teach something that every single (US) student should know. To add to that, our voting system is just confusing enough that people do need to be taught. By making students register, they take away a barrier to learning and identify any registration issues before they become important.

3 Replies to “Universities and Civic Duty”

  1. Hey, Brad!

    This is an interesting argument. I often think about the idea of having mandatory voting in the U.S., as many other countries require. Your friend’s post, however, suggests mandatory voting for students. While I’m not sure on which side of the argument I lie with respect to requiring voting (admittedly I’m not educated enough on the various arguments and the research behind them), countries that require mandatory voting tend to at least better respect the system of voting than what we have in the U.S. (e.g., other countries making voting day a national holiday, not having exclusive voter ID laws intentionally created to silence specific populations). If a university were to require its students to vote, they would need to consider how to not only make accessibility to voting easy, they would need to go out of their way to support their students in the process of successfully fulfilling their civil duty.

  2. That’s a fair argument. I think his intent wasn’t to force voting, but just registration. That way one potential barrier is removed almost immediately upon registration.

    To your other point, I think many campuses (at least that I’ve been on) have a polling place on campus that students can use. The problem is someone who commutes, or doesn’t live on campus often can’t use this place, so it’s of limited use to upperclassmen/faculty.

  3. If this system was to be implemented (and done in the right way I do believe it has more pros than cons), It might help to provide explicit resources for those students to access “unbiased” information on the candidates and what issues are at stake. That will create more aware and responsible voters may be.

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