LU staff get students involved in upcoming presidential election

Dylan Reed-Maxfield

With what is widely regarded as one of the most important elections in United States history fast approaching, Lawrence University’s staff members have risen to the occasion by dedicating substantial time and effort to making students and others more informed and active voters.
One of the first projects by Lawrence staff to promote election awareness was Visiting Professor of Education Rob Beck’s MyElectionDecision.org Web site, which was launched before last year’s presidential primary season.
The Web site offered surveys designed to help voters determine which candidate’s views best matched their own on several popular election issues. The surveys were based on unidentified statements by eight candidates, who were running for major party nominations at the time.
Although the Web site was created for the primaries, interested voters continued to make use of its surveys after the first round of elections was over.
Director of Instructional Technology David Berk, who also worked on the My Election Decision project, said the site “has remained popular even as the number of candidates in the race continued to dwindle.”
According to Beck, 1,642 of the 13,471 people who have visited MyElectionDecision.org as of Oct. 20 have done so in the preceding four days.
The most recent development for MyElectionDecision.org was the addition of eight videos produced from interviews with Lawrence freshmen who were going to be first-time voters. The interviews were the work of Professors Rob Beck and Jerald Podair and their students. These videos can also be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/myelectiondecision.
Another major staff project that got started last year was an on-campus voter registration drive. Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell cited the work of one group, comprised of Student Affairs staff members, for their efforts to organize voter registration.
Those mentioned were Acting Assistant Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs Mohammed Bey, Campus Activities Secretary Charity Rasmussen, Coordinator of International Student Services Tim Schmidt, and Associate Director of Counseling Services Jerri Kahl.
Many other faculty and staff also worked the registration tables in Downer Commons and outside Lucinda’s. Through their efforts, more than 200 students registered to vote last school year and almost 400 more did so this fall.
The same group is arranging for shuttle vans to take students to the polls on the day of the election. Many of the vans will be driven by the same university staff members who assisted with voter registration.
One of the most exciting recent events for political awareness at Lawrence was a debate between Wisconsin eighth-district Congressional candidates Steve Kagen and John Gard.
The debate was cosponsored by the university and AARP, and took place last Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Stansbury Theatre.
The topics for the debate included pre-submitted questions from students, and thus the event was billed as an opportunity for interested students to have their voices heard in the political process.
Organizing the debate was partially the work of Communications Director Sheree Rogers. The communications office also wrote press releases for MyElectionDecision.org, and has consistently printed posters and other advertisements for all the political awareness events on campus.
Mohammed Bey also worked on the debate project, and his Office of Multicultural affairs is cosponsoring, with various student groups, a number of election-related events scheduled to take place next week.
Sunday evening will feature a “Rock Out for Politics” event at 8 p.m. in Riverview Lounge. This will include live bands and food, speakers and discussion.
Monday there will be a “rewind” session for the third presidential debate, also at 8 p.m. in Riverview. Tuesday offers a similar program for the vice-presidential debate.
Wednesday at 8 p.m. a social affairs debate will take place in the Underground Coffeehouse.
From educating on the issues to registering voters, to taking them to vote, the staff at Lawrence is doing its utmost to make sure students here have their bearings amidst the excitement and confusion of an extremely talked-about election.

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