April 12, 2023
Susquehanna University was named a Voter Friendly Campus, one of 258 campuses in 38 states by Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. The initiative recognizes institutions that have planned and implemented practices that encouraged their students to register and vote in 2022.
The institutions designated Voter Friendly Campuses represent a wide range of two-year, four-year, public, private, rural and urban campuses, collectively serving over 3.5 million students.
The mission of the 2023 Voter Friendly Campus designation is to bolster colleges and universities’ efforts to help students overcome barriers to participating in the political process every year, not just during federal elections. Susquehanna was evaluated based on a written plan for how the university registered and educated student voters and facilitated voter engagement efforts on campus in 2022, as well as a final analysis of those efforts, including turnout.
“With college voting under attack in several states across the country, it is heartening to see Susquehanna students helping their peers engage in the democratic process,” said University President Jonathan Green. “Historically, Susquehanna had trailed the national participation rate. But we went from trailing to leading when 75% of SU students voted in the 2020 election. It was one of the most dramatic improvements in the nation. I am grateful for the work of my colleagues and proud of our students for exercising one of the greatest privileges of citizenship.”
Students Lead Nonpartisan Voter Engagement Effort
Susquehanna’s Voting Engagement Coalition, which exists under the umbrella of Achieve. Lead. Vote!, brought together a collaboration of several independent campus organizations and programs. Efforts were led by the David ’69 and Sharon Johnson Center for Civic Engagement and supported by Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, the Susquehanna Democrat and Republican clubs and the Black Student Union.
To encourage registration, the group launched Voting Engagement Celebration Week, a weeklong series of events and activities with the purpose of registering unregistered voters and helping registered voters plan their path to the polls.
“This year’s Voter Engagement Celebration Week saw more cross-campus collaboration and interaction than ever before,” said Grey Weatherford Brown ’25, student intern for Achieve. Lead. Vote! “Our staff and volunteers helped register over 100 students to vote.”
Activities during Voter Engagement Celebration Week included:
- Free T-Shirt Day — A promo event for early mail-in voters who had already registered and sent in their ballots.
- Therapy Dog and Voter Education Day — To address the stress and anxiety students have reported feeling around the idea of voting or registering to vote. Anxious voters were connected with the therapeutic animals of the Tri-County Obedience Club.
- Let’s Taco ’Bout Voting — A Choco Taco giveaway with voter trivia where students were encouraged to use the GivePulse and TurboVote tools to set up notifications for upcoming voter deadlines.
- Voters-Eat-Free — A baked goods giveaway aimed at rewarding registered voters with a free baked treat made by the service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega.
- Voter Party — Hosted by SU’s student-run café Charlie’s Coffeehouse.
Johnson Center representatives worked with Black Student Union leadership to create educational presentations and to register every member to vote. The Johnson Center also provided mail-in ballot assistance, education and resources in the form of helpful staff and free stamps for ballot return. Student volunteers made a concerted effort to connect students with ballot guides, Weatherford Brown said, by referring students to existing, nonpartisan resources, including Pennsylvania-specific voting guides and to other states via sites like vote411 and usa.gov. To ensure students could get to the polls, students and staff volunteered to run voter caravans.
Energized by their success, Weatherford Brown said goals have already been identified for the future.
“We want to register all students on campus to vote, whether it be at home or here in Snyder County. We also want to plan activities for first-year students aimed at introducing the concepts of mail-in ballots,” Weatherford Brown said. “We also want to broaden our partnerships with the Democrat and Republican clubs on our campus while exploring new partnerships and expanding our use of social media.”