Trinity’s campus may feel empty, but don’t be fooled. Tigers are still at work, driving the campus forward with meaningful initiatives, including for this upcoming election season.
As of Nov. 2, Trinity was the No. 6 ranked college in the nation for undergraduate students (as well as faculty and staff) who had registered to vote through TurboVote. Trinity was in good company with universities such as Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis.
Just over 30% of Trinity undergraduate students (and faculty and staff, but primarily students) had registered to vote on the TurboVote website, a site that provides people with the information they need to vote with confidence. This percentage also includes faculty and staff, but the primary audience was undergraduate students.
This accomplishment is the result of a group of passionate, driven Tigers who comprise Trinity’s 2020 Census and Voter Engagement Task Force. The task force is composed of students, staff, and faculty working together to educate and provide support as the election draws near.
Last spring, Jamie Thompson ’05, assistant dean of students and director of Student Involvement, initiated the 2020 Census and Voter Engagement Task Force (in collaboration with former University employee, Scott Brown) and began its work urging students, faculty, and staff to participate in the census. Now, the task force is continuing its work by helping the Trinity community answer questions on when, where, how, and why to vote.
To make sure that the task force had a wide variety of engagement and representation, Thompson reached out to student leaders on campus for help as student representatives. Brian Yancelson ’23, president of the Trinity Progressives student organization, has been working on the task force since August.
“College students, in general, are known to have lower voting rates historically, and there are just so many obstacles to college students voting,” Yancelson says. “It's confusing, and all of that is just multiplied by the pandemic and how we've been forced to live in places we never expected. There are just so many questions to answer. So for the task force, I think any sort of help we can provide to make voting a little easier is worth it. Even if we answer just one question or help one person vote that wouldn’t have before, then I think we did our job.”
Among Yancelson’s fellow representatives are Thomás Peña ’22 and Sarah Pita ’23. Peña is the president of the Trinity University Latino Association, and Pita serves as a senator for the Class of 2023 in Trinity’s Student Government Association (SGA). As student representatives, they work with Yancelson and the rest of the task force to provide support and encouragement to students looking for ways to fulfill their civic responsibilities.
“That’s what's really great about the task force,” Peña says. “When I got the invitation, I was like, ‘I’m not a political science major, what are my connections to this?’ But it's comprised of students and faculty and staff from across campus, from different parts of student life, and we're all working toward one goal.”
The goal of the task force has been to educate and support anyone who wants to help make a change. The task force has done a lot of work throughout the fall semester, and they aren’t slowing down. They’ve held information sessions and social media campaigns, and they have recruited two students from almost every student organization and sports team to be trained in voter advocacy. The hope is that by demystifying voting for these advocates, those students will be able to take their knowledge back and spread it through their networks, increasing cross-campus civic engagement and election literacy.
“As a political science major, I really enjoy civic engagement, and I want people to be engaged,” says Pita, who has been working on the task force social media campaigns since May. “I think it's especially important at a place like Trinity. College students in particular are a hard voting block to access, and it's a really good opportunity for Trinity to engage with its student body. Part of Trinity's overall message is getting out there and being involved in the community, and voting is really essential to that.”
“I think it's just about trying to be a good member of the community and making it fun,” Peña says. “Make it a tradition to not only vote, but to take your friends. Just make it a fun afternoon, take your friends to the polls and see change come to the community.”