Campus Profile #10: California University of Pennsylvania

Matt Camarda, Campus Vote Project Intern

September 16, 2016

This summer and fall CVP is writing profiles of colleges and universities and their efforts to educate students about voter registration, casting a ballot and developing democratic engagement. These campuses are a part of the Voter Friendly Campus designation project offered by CVP and NASPA.

California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U.) takes enormous pride in its democratic engagement efforts, in which students, faculty, and staff play a crucial role. Partnering with the American Democracy Project (ADP), Cal U. implements a variety of programs to educate and mobilize students.

ADP holds regular voter registration drives in high traffic areas, providing information on local and absentee voting and computers for students to register online. ADP sponsors additional registration drives during National Voter Registration Day.

To engage students about the issues, Cal U. holds panels during Constitution Day on subjects ranging from money in politics to civil liberties during wartime. Open to the public, these events are well attended and accompanied by voter registration tables. Cosponsoring with the League of Women Voters, Cal U.’s ADP chapter held a forum for the candidates running for the 49th Pennsylvania House District and concurrently held a registration drive.

Since 2004, the History and Political Science Departments host biweekly Campaign Watch round-table discussions during even- and odd-year elections. In March, prominent political scientist Alan Abramowitz hosted a lecture on how polarization will affect the 2016 election. These events give students the opportunity to ask questions and hear about issues from varying perspectives.

Bolstering ADP’s engagement work, Cal U. has Cal Campaign Consultants (CCC), a multi-disciplinary program founded by students and faculty who wanted to teach students how to run campaigns. Students in the Campaign Management degree program are required to volunteer on a campaign and register voters, providing a backbone for ADP’s registration efforts.

Come Election Day, Cal U works to make voting more accessible for students. The College Democrats, College Republicans, and CCC provide rides to the polls within a 50-mile radius. In 2012, the Commonwealth Court put an injunction on Pennsylvania’s strict voter ID law, preventing it from taking effect. Cal U. made acceptable IDs available, so students could still vote if poll workers didn’t know about the change.

Democratic engagement is fundamental to Cal U.’s educational mission. They believe students should not just be active voters, but critically informed ones. That’s why they give students unique opportunities to engage with ideas, prominent leaders, and other students.

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