Faculty Senate gets out the vote
To Bill Nathan, immediate past president of the Faculty Senate, Temple teachers' responsibilities don't end once class is over.
"I believe it's the faculty's collective duty to get students to think about their role as citizens in a democratic society," Nathan said. "We've got to get students to get to the ballot box."
This month, Nathan will practice what he preaches. He's spearheading the Faculty Senate's first-ever nonpartisan voter registration drive, a two-day event on Sept. 15 and 16. Assisted by members of the League of Women Voters, Temple faculty volunteers plan to man tables at the Student Center, the Bell Tower, select dormitories and other locations. Volunteers will hand out Pennsylvania voter registration forms and help guide students -- including students from other states or other Pennsylvania counties (see box, below) -- through the registration process.
While teaching math courses this summer, Nathan struck up conversations with students before class and was stunned to learn how many of his students weren't registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
"Unfortunately, we faculty members often get immersed in our specific subjects," said the 37-year member of the mathematics department. "But we've got a larger responsibility to get students to develop a reasonable sense of civic awareness. By doing this, we're fulfilling our role as teachers. As far as I'm concerned, it's another piece of every student's general education."
Although Nathan didn't know it when he began his voter registration push, the Faculty Senate's drive helps Temple meet a federal obligation. According to George Moore, University Counsel, the 1998 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act requires colleges and universities to make a good-faith effort to acquire and distribute voter registration forms for their students.
The new president of the Faculty Senate, Dan O'Hara of the English department, gives Nathan's project his full support.
"This election, like the last one, is likely going to be very close, so each vote really will count," O'Hara said.
"The decline in political participation among the younger generation has been precipitous," he continued. "So the more students get involved, the better for the country -- no matter how this election turns out."
O'Hara's not exaggerating: Census Bureau data from the last presidential election paint a demoralizing picture of young Americans' voting habits. Only 45 percent of Americans age 18 to 24 were registered to vote in the 2000 presidential election, whereas 60 to 76 percent of citizens in higher age brackets were registered. And only 32 percent of Americans in the youngest age bracket actually voted, the lowest voting rate among voting-age adults.
The Faculty Senate's voter registration drive isn't the only University-sanctioned nonpartisan effort on campus. Former Dean of Students Jim Fitzsimmons ordered more than 20,000 Pennsylvania voter registration forms from Harrisburg. Many of them were put into the first fall course catalog; the rest will be kept in a pile in the Dean of Students office in room 304 of the Student Center, where they've been available for pickup since the summer.
Even President David Adamany's office has joined the push. The "President's Wall" on Broad Street will be painted with the following message sometime in the next week or two: LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD: REGISTER TO VOTE.
-By Hillel J. Hoffmann
The truth about registering and voting
Cynthia Baughman, an assistant professor in the film and media arts department, has been doing her best to get students to register and vote since March. Her advice to students who have questions about the process:
"The big question Temple students always ask me is: Where should I vote if my home is in another state or another part of Pennsylvania? You have a choice. You may register to vote in your home state or county, and travel home to vote on Election Day, or you may request an absentee ballot and vote in your home district by mail. (I recommend MTV's Web site, www.rockthevote.com, for information on registering or requesting absentee ballots from any state.) Many students from other parts of the country don't realize that you may also register to vote here in the Philadelphia area, using your college residence as your address. Any U.S. citizen who'll be 18 on Election Day and will have lived in the area for 30 days prior to an election may register to vote here.
"It's up to you: If you care about the local races in your home town, you may want to vote there. But you may find it much more convenient to register and vote here. (If you want to register to vote in the Philly area, check the change-of-address box on the voter registration form. Include the address of your old registration so that your new registration will cancel out your old one.) You're not registered to vote in Pennsylvania until your application has been received and processed by your county voter registration office. If accepted, the county registration office will send you a voter identification card. If you don't receive your card within 14 days of the date when you submit the application, contact your county registration office. Remember: You must register to vote by Oct. 4 to vote on Election Day, Nov. 2.
"Although it's easy to register, finding your local polling place can be more challenging. You need to know your ward and division in order to find out where you polling place is located. That information is on your voter identification card. If you've lost your card, call the board of elections, and they'll give you this information. Polling places are published in local newspapers days before the election. You can also find them at seventy.org, a great site for Philly voter info. Don't forget to bring an ID if you're voting in a new location for the first time."