At the start of the school year, when students on campus were asked about the Presidential election, many said they wanted to be better informed, but hadn’t spent the time necessary to speak intelligently about the issues.
More recently, they’ve instead been saying LIVEDemocracy—a nonpartisan, campus-wide effort to educate them about the political process and the issues—has allowed them to make impressive strides in their political understanding and involvement. The Buder Family Student Commons has been filled with Maryville University students watching the Presidential debates, listening to professors provide background on the issues and using social media to share their opinions. Student and faculty comments about the Presidential debate scroll across a large screen at the gatherings, as they use social media to write short messages about how they think the candidates are faring.
Maryville Associate Vice President Alden Craddock, who directs the Center for Civic Engagement and Democracy on campus, invites alumni to get involved in the effort. Alumni are welcome to attend the next debate watch event, at Buder Family Student Commons at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22. Or they can fact check, add context or tweet with students at @MULivedemocracy, using the hashtag #LIVEDemocracy.
To encourage more student interest in the elections, Craddock assembled a 2012 elections task force made up of students, faculty and staff. The group designed the LIVEDemocracy program with three parts: an introduction to elections, a segment on understanding issues and a segment about making decisions.
As part of the project, some students are taking classes this fall about elections and the political process. Several professors are incorporating LIVEDemocracy events and resources into their teaching to advance LIVEDemocracy across subject areas. There is a LIVEDemocracy website, with content for students, written by students, about the elections, the candidates and the issues. Other signs of the effort on campus include everything from a book club whose members are reading Allan J. Lichtman’s Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House 2012 to student-designed digital signage featuring election trivia. On Wednesdays, students have been staffing election information tables on the quad.
The hope is if students have fun and educate themselves, they’ll have more information to help them as they head to the polls.“We don’t want people arguing their position without understanding the issues. Make your decision about what you think would be best for the country based on the facts,” Craddock said.
Maryville University sophomore Heather Sprengel, 19, of Maryland Heights said, “You may just be one person, but you can make a difference.”